Friday, October 5, 2012

Healthy Growth

From childhood throughout adulthood, people engage in "health-enhancing or health-compromising behavior" (Santrock, 2008, p. 142). Obstacles exist at every developmental stage that prevent or delay healthy growth. Health education, individualized therapy, and public programs seek to provide resources and awareness for health and well-being across the lifespan (Santrock, 2008; Sussman, Skara, & Ames, 2008; Wolfe, 1999).

                                    Obstacles to Healthy Growth During Childhood


Although nutritional deficiency is common in developing countries, it is also a concern in the United States (Drewnowski & Spector, 2004). Drewnowski and Spector (2004) discovered that the highest rates of obesity are found in populations with higher poverty rates and less education. Higher rates of malnutrition are found in this same group as well (Santrock, 2008). Healthier food is more expensive than sugary foods, sweets, and grain products, so the less expensive foods are a popular substitution in poor households (Drewnowski, 2010). Federal programs have helped eliminate malnutrition in pre-school children (Santrock, 2008) and similar community programs may help reconcile malnutrition in poor and rural areas.

Poverty and the Lack of Preventive Medicine

According to Simpson, Bloom, Cohen, and Parsons (1997), in 1993, over 7.3 million American children had at least one unmet health care need, or had medical care delayed, and another 4.2 million children did not have a source for regular medical care. For most of these children, their inadequate health care was the result of poverty (Simpson, Bloom, Cohen, & Parsons, 1997). Wolfe (1999) believed that providing health insurance to underinsured children should reduce the inequality of healthcare resources. Providing a health insurance package to all children may provide equal access to medical care, even for extremely poor households, and an increase in the number of families who take advantage of cost-free services (Wolfe, 1999).

                                    Obstacles to Healthy Growth During Adolescence

Substance Abuse

Approximately 5% of American teenagers fulfill the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse disorder, which is the most common cause of adolescent mortality in the United States (Sussman, Skara, & Ames, 2008; Tartar, 2002). Other related problems include "poor academic performance, job instability, teen pregnancy, and ...sexually transmitted diseases" (Sussman, Skara, & Ames, 2008, p. 1802) Brook, Saar, Zhang, and Brook (2009) found family therapy may help reduce substance abuse. Santrock (2008) found creating awareness before adolescence and programs such as Family Matters were successful for reducing teenage substance abuse.

Overweight and Obesity

American adolescents eat more junk food than teenagers in 28 other countries (Santrock, 2008). Overweight and obesity have become increasingly common and once established, they are far more difficult to treat (Caballero, 2004). Obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, inflammation and oxidative stress (Raj, 2012). Raj (2012) believed neglecting current trends of overweight and obesity threatens cardiovascular health and may result in a public health crisis. Creating awareness, individualized therapy and mentorship, diet modification, and regular exercise have been successful with reducing overweight and obesity in teens (Santrock, 2008; Wengle et al., 2011)

                                    Obstacles to Healthy Growth During Adulthood


"Smoking is linked to 30% of cancer deaths, 21% of heart disease deaths, and 82% of chronic pulmonary disease deaths in the United States" (Santrock, 2008, p. 168). Few doubt the diseases and general harm smoking causes. Children's exposure to second hand smoke caused long-term health effects, and smoking in the home was predictive for children's future smoking behavior (Wang, Ho, & Lam, 2011). The most useful and cost effective intervention is smoking cessation (Duaso & Duncan, 2012). Duaso and Duncan (2012) found the most effective therapies used a non-confrontational and non-judgmental approach.

Lack of exercise

Although overwhelming evidence suggests physical activity is related to mortality and overall health, most adults do not exercise regularly (Paluska & Schwenk, 2000). Exercise produces benefits throughout adulthood that include psychological well being and quality of life, not to mention longevity, cardiac, respiratory, and general physical health (Balkin, Tietjen-Smith, Caldwell, & Shen, 2007; Eriksson & Gard, 2011; Yohannes, Doherty, Bundy, & Yalfani, 2010). Larson and Bruce (1987) believed as the number of aging Americans increases, it will be important to find ways to disseminate information regarding age appropriate exercise. Santrock (2008) recommended people watch less television, stop making excuses, and learn about the effects of exercise versus sedentary lifestyles, so they become motivated to exercise regularly.


Across developmental stages, challenging obstacles claim the health of children, adolescents, and adults. Healthy growth does not happen in a vacuum and it is undermined or strengthened by cultural, familial, and community systems. Taking into account the unique contexts as well as the larger systems of affected individuals may contribute to successful education and interventions that establish long-term health and well-being.


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