Obesity in children and adolescents in Thailand:
Access and education issues for programming and policy in a post COVID-19 epoch
Keywords:COVID-19, Location Science, Obesity, Spatial Statistics, Thailand
The crisis of obesity has been rapidly increasing in severity across the world. The purpose of this article is to explore the nature of the obesity epidemic, with attention to elements likely to persist in Thailand, and to develop policy and practice elements that could be implemented in a post-Covid environment. To develop the background for this work a review of access to healthcare, access to healthy foods, and the relationships of obesity and socioeconomic and cultural factors is provided. This review shows that in Thailand, the population at risk of obesity are more concentrated in urban areas where access to unhealthy food choices is ubiquitous. While obesity is highly correlated with low socioeconomic status and income in the U.S., the reverse is more often the case in Thailand, particularly among boys. Complicating the challenge of obesity has been the COVID-19 epidemic, as literature has linked obesity to an increased number of cases and deaths from COVID-19, with earlier findings across the world reporting that obesity in general increases complications related to many similar respiratory viruses. Access to health care is recognized as a gateway to population health as preventative care is less costly, easier to deliver, and if distributed as needed, can be effective in preventing large scale disease progression. These findings are used to develop suggestions for policy and practice that leverage historical successes in major public health initiatives undertaken by the Thai government. Moreover, since traditional statistical analyses do not take into account the role of spatial effects such as spatial dependence and spatial heterogeneity, there is an opportunity to incorporate novel methods in analyses of obesity in Thailand given that the spatial associations with prevalence of obesity are well known. Thailand has made many successful national efforts to reduce obesity across the nation with significant results.
The aim of this paper is to provide policy and intervention suggestions that can leverage that success with the growing understanding of the relationship between access, education, and obesity. Thailand’s history of public health success suggests that the obesity crises may be largely prevented if those national resources are brought to bear with an interdisciplary and long-term plan.
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