Tag Archives: childrens health

Dallas’ Renaissance Plan: A Response to the Second Wave of Environmental Justice

Dallas is the seventh largest city in the United States with a population exceeding 1.1 million citizens in the year 2000. Dallas is the fourth largest park system in the United States. The second wave of the environmental justice movement is a concept concerned with urban design, public health, and availability of outdoor physical activities. The upgrade to the 21,526 acres of parkland will amplify the quality of and access to outdoor recreation. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department’s “Renaissance Plan” is a response to  the increased demand of the citizens for new and expanded park facilities, recreation programs, open space areas, and unique recreational amenities. Physical activity is one of the health indicators for Healthy People 2010, and responding to these demands is a step forward of meeting its goals.  Dallas’ wide spectrum of park facilities will provide physical activities that will have positive health outcome to Dallas residents including the low-income population of the Dallas County and contiguous counties. Recognition of environmental exposure affecting economically and politically disadvantaged members of the community gave birth to the first wave of environmental justice movement. In addition to health problems related to environmental exposures, environmental justice (EJ) also cover disparities in physical activity, dietary habits, and obesity among different populations. Disparities on the access of public facilities and resources for physical activity (PA) is an EJ issue that has a negative impact on health among low-income and racial/ethnic minorities (Labilles, 2013). The 2007 cross-sectional study of Taylor et al. suggest an association between disproportionate low access to parks and recreation services (PRS) and other activity-friendly environments in low-income and racial/ethnic minority communities.  The prevalence of lower levels of PA and higher rates of obesity was observed in the minority population, which is a direct outcome of the prevalence of lower levels of PA. These differences violate the fair treatment principle necessary for environmental justice.

The treatment of health conditions associated with physical inactivity such as obesity poses an economic cost of at least $117 billion each year. Physical inactivity contributes to many physical and mental health problems.  The reported 200,000-deaths per year in the US is attributed to physical inactivity, and data from surveillance system indicate that people from some racial/ethnic minority groups experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic diseases associated with physical inactivity. Taylor, Poston, Jones & Kraft (2006) findings, provided preliminary evidence for the hypothesis that socioeconomic status disparities in overweight and obesity are related to differences in environmental characteristics. However, most of the studies had encountered epidemiologic “black box” problem, making it impossible to determine which characteristics of the environment (e.g., density of food service outlets or physical activity resources) may be most important (Labilles, 2013). Ellaway et al. found that body-mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and prevalence of obesity, and greater obesity risk is associated with low area or neighborhood socio-economic status.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2000.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2000.

Ellaway A, Anderson A, Macintyre S. Does area of residence affect body size and shape? Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997; 21:304-308.

Labilles, U. (2013). Environment Matters: The Disproportionate Burden of Environmental Challenges. PUBH 8115-1 Environmental Health Spring Qtr. Minneapolis: Walden University.

Taylor, W., Floyd, M., Whitt-Glover, M. & Brooks, J. (2007).  Environmental Justice: A Framework for Collaboration between the Public Health and Parks and Recreation Fields to Study Disparities in Physical Activity. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 4, supp 1, s50-s63.

US Dept of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; 1996.

US Dept of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010: With understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health (2nd ed). Washington: US Govt Printing Office; 2000.

Wolf AM, Manson JE, Colditz GA. The economic impact of overweight, obesity, and weight loss. In: Eckel R, ed. Obesity Mechanisms and Clinical Management. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins; 2002.



Parental Obesity and New Mentality: Raising the Risk of Child Obesity

Our nation’s most urgent health problem is the disparities in health care. There are stark disparities in health by gender and socioeconomic status. According to Davis et al. (2005), “the social and community environments affect health directly as well as indirectly by influencing behavior”(p. 2168). Which group do we put parents who have a distorted perception of their child’s body size? This phenomenon is most prevalent among low-income women and Hispanic mothers. But regardless of race or socioeconomic background, the obesity epidemic is eroding the general impression of what healthy looks like. What if obese is the new normal? If obese is the new normal, then it will be our failure as Public Health professionals to emphasize the importance of the role of parents and family to combat child obesity. Parents should play a crucial role in influencing children’s food habits and physical activity. Parental obesity may increase the risk of a child becoming obese. Wrotniak et al. (2004) is the first study to examine the incremental effects of parental weight change on child weight change while controlling for variables that influence child weight loss. The study stated that youth benefit the most from parents who lose the most weight in family-based behavioral treatments (Wrotniak et al., 2004, p. 342).

The prevalence of obesity is increasing in all pediatric age groups according to the Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Genetics, environment, metabolism, lifestyle, and eating habits are among the factors believed to play a role in the development of obesity. More than 90% of cases are idiopathic; less than 10% are associated with hormonal or genetic causes. Hirschler et al. (2008) found an association between mothers’ distorted perception of their children’s shape and eating habits and mothers’ obesity and their children’s overweight. The study provides clues for obesity prevention programs. There is a multitude of health problems that are associated with obesity. Without dealing with the new trend of maternally distorted perception of their child’s body size, health problems faced by family care physicians will continue to rise. There will be continued prevalence of obesity associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease to hyperlipidemia, asthma, and obstructive sleep apnea. According to Friedman & Schwartz (2008), “A key concept in developing obesity-related policies is creating ‘optimal defaults’17. When there is an optimal default, the health promoting behaviors are those that come most easily, require the least effort or thought, and offer a more healthful option” (p.718).


JAMA Network | JAMA Pediatrics | Parent Weight Change as a … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=485676

Hirschler, V., Calcagno M., Clemente A., Aranda C., Gonzalez, C. (2008, July 21). Association between school children’s overweight and maternal obesity and perception of      their children’s weight status. Journal Pediatric Endocrinololgy & Metabolism. 7:641-9.

Cohen, L., Chavez, V., Chehimi, S. (2010). Achieving Health Equity and Social Justice. L. Liburd & W. Giles, Prevention is Primary (pp. 33-53). San Francisco: Jossey-            Bass.

Friedman, R., & Schwartz, M. (2008). Public Policy to Prevent Childhood Obesity, and the Role of Pediatric Endocrinologists.Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology &                    Metabolism, 21, 717-725.

A Focus on Resilience: Children during Marital Transition

Resilience is very important in order to establish positive adaptation during marital transition. Divorce and remarriage involve a complex series of changes that can affect all aspects of family relationships. In attempts to recapture normalcy after marital separation, the feelings of hurt and pain, sadness and anger are particularly intense among children and parents. Counselling will provide the basic foundation needed and the ability to face adversity or risks, easing the challenges confronting members of families in transition.  Based on the significant body of research, most children adequately adjust to dramatic changes such as emotional distress, psychological confusion, and relationship strain. The experience of children of divorce eventually meets the criteria of Garmezy’s definition of resilience “the maintenance of competent functioning despite an interfering emotionality” (1991, p. 466).


          Longitudinal research on prevention shows that communication problems and destructive marital conflict are among the leading risk factors for future divorce and marital distress. The effects of divorce and marital distress caused by destructive conflict are passed on to spouses and children. According to Stanley et al. (1995), longitudinal studies have found that destructive patterns such as invalidation, withdrawal, pursuit-withdrawal and negative interpretation undermine marital happiness.   The success of marriage is undermined by the active erosion of love, sexual attraction, friendship, trust, and commitment. Over 6 million children of divorce are growing up, and the study of specific mental health issue should be encouraged among current and future public health practitioners. The study will be instrumental in the development of variety of approaches that will deal with both normal and disturbed children, focusing on the immediate and future impact.


          Many children hold inappropriate feelings of responsibility for their parents’ continuing relationship, and misunderstandings about the reasons for divorce. Children’s relationship to nonresidential parents, most commonly their fathers, often grow distant and inconsistent after separation and overtime. Parents should realize that the victims of marital transition are the children. A source of chronic distress for children are anger and conflict before, during and after the divorce. Single or joint parenting can become unstable as one or both parents struggle with their own burdens such as the adverse economic consequences of divorce.


Garmezy, N. (1991). Resilience in children’s adaptation to negative life events and stressed environments.  Pediatric Annals, 20, 459–466.

Haggerty, R., Sherrod, L. & Garmezy, N. (1996). Parenting divorce and children’s wellbeing: A focus on resilience. Stress, Risks, and Resilience in Children and Adolescents:     Processes, Mechanisms, and Interventions. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Stanley, S., Markman, H, St. Peters, M & Leber, B. (1995). Strengthening Marriages and Preventing Divorce-New Directions in Prevention Research.  Family Relations, 44, 392-401.

McDermott, J. (1970). Divorce and its psychiatric sequelae in Children. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 23 (5), 421-427. : 10.1001/archpsyc.1970.01750050037006.