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Obesity In New Zealand

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1276 words Published: 9th May 2017

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There are many social issues facing New Zealanders today, couple these with low economics and low employment and these factors start turning these issues into health problems such as obesity. This essay will outline a social issue of obesity. It will then give a brief explanation of sociological theories, upon doing so the essay will then relate the social issue back to the three sociology theories. Lastly this essay will explore how obesity is affecting Māori.

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Obesity in New Zealand has become a major health and social issue facing people of all ages. Recent statistics on this issue have highlighted just how much of a problem obesity has become.in the years 2008/09 27.8% of all adults (aged 15+) are obese that’s 1 in 4 and childhood obesity is no better with 1 in 12 children (aged 2 – 15) being obese that’s 8.3% (Ministry of health, 2011). This breaks down to males being 27.7% and females being 28.7%, compare these to 1997 where the statistics were vastly different. Only 17% of males were obese and 20.6% females were obese (Ministry of health, 2011). Children’s statistics are similar but there is a definite trend for children as only some in the total population are affected. All factors have been addressed while these statistics have been complied such as food intake, food types and psychical activities. The health issues that have steamed from social issue include type 2 diabetes, and heart disease among others in adults, However in children the problems are far more serious . Obese children face a lifetime of health problems such as high blood pressure and asthma. For obese children there is a greater risk of bullying, body dissatisfaction as well as psychological problems (Ministry of health, 2011). There has been research to suggest that obesity in children may lead to strokes, common cancers, reproductive problems and musculoskeletal problems (Ministry of health, 2011). Obese children often lead to obese adults; this is now not just a health problem but a social issue as the repercussions that stem from this are far reaching. Our children will have to face this head on as it will be down to their generation who ultimately have to deal with this issue.

Conflict theory, structural functionalism and symbolic interactionism are all theories used in sociology. They provide perspectives on how we see the world, something to grab a hold of so to understand the information we receive. Each of these theories provides a unique way of looking at situations for example a conflict theorist would say that all relationships are centred on power and someone holding more power than the other (Brent, Thompson, & Vale, 2000) . A conflict theorist believes that social economics are determined by the wealthy and therefore they hold the power over the majority of the people (Brent, Thompson, & Vale, 2000). With this happening it clearly breaks society into two groups rich and poor, the boss and the workers or as Karl Marx put it the bourgeoisie and the proletariats ( M.E. Sharpe, 2005), this division between the masses proves to be beneficial for the richer of society (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000). When dealing with social problems the conflict theory can be broken into two areas Non-Marxist conflict theory and Marxist conflict theory. Marxists focus on conflicts in our society that develop from differences in financial status (Ellison, 1987). Non-Marxists focus on conflicts in our society that arise from differing and oppositional ethics amongst different groups (Ellison, 1987).

A structural functionalist has a different view on the world as they believe that our society is a group of interrelated individuals that coexist in a manner that creates symmetry for all (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000). With this belief comes the realisation that corporations and families are equal in society, families reproduce, nurture and educate children who in turn provide workers with the skills and knowledge base for the corporations to continue (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000). Structural functionalism highlights how a society works together and how one part of society influences another part of society (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000).

Symbolic interactionism is largely based on work by George H Mead and Max Webber. Symbolic interactionism looks at the whole picture while analysing the micro level, as theorist who follows this perspective believe that by analysing the macro level the social problem could be broken down to see what level has been affected (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000). This perspective is occupied with the inner workings of a small group to see how human behaviour is influenced while interacting within the small group vs. a larger group (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000). This perspective also advocates that a person’s self is shaped and influenced by interaction with others in a social situation (Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, 2000).

Looking at obesity from a structural functionalist point of view you would have to say that not one person is to blame as it is a collective problem, that a collective has to come to terms with. With this understanding it then becomes hard to correct the problem as if one part of society is influencing to the wrong degree then that will impact on another part of society and then a domino effect is created (Nestle, 2006). Marketing advertisements in modern media that depict high fat and high in sugar foods utilising graphical images that portray healthy people, make the average consumer believe that eating this style of foods will have no effect on them (Witkowski, 2007). This is just one example of the major corporations influencing society to buy items which is propelling the obesity problem. This is one part of society influencing another part of society.

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A conflict theorist would look at this social issue and would simply ask who is benefiting from this. Companies who promote unhealthy eating like fast food establishments who make unhealthy food readily available at a low cost point are the only ones who make a gain (Beck, 2007). By making appetizing food which tastes good with no nutritional value in bulk the fast food companies are able to keep costs down and in doing so they hold power over the consumer as they are able to purchase a cheap filling meal at no great cost to them (Young & Nestle, 2007). There is research that links the proliferation of fast food outlets to the growing challenge of obesity this factor linked with low exercise rates due to motorized transport and jobs that no longer require manual labour has led to a sequence of events in our society where obesity is one of the outcomes (Freund & Martin, 2008) . This has become the typical power struggle in our today’s society.

A symbolic interaction theorist would look at how people are being influenced by those they surround themselves with, how a person/people receives and interprets the information being beamed through all media outlets and peer’s a like (Kumanyika, 2008). By bringing the person down to the macro level a theorist would look to see how these influences are being processed, how media influences peoples buying patterns and challenges our ability to see right from wrong and good from bad. The use of modern media practice gives visuals of healthy people consuming high fat unhealthy food (Nestle, 2006). The image contradicts the act and therefore legitimises this in their mind, consequently making it ok to eat unhealthy. This is how obesity has become a social issue.


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