Childhood obesity has become a major epidemic in America. To many Americans, this news is very disturbing and has caused a major debate on who is to be responsible for this rising epidemic, and what can be done to control it. There are many people that could be blamed for it, such as parents, government, schools and so on. But the question is what can be done about it? Most Americans can agree that something needs to be done to try and control it. Because childhood obesity has become such an epidemic in America today, public schools should step in and do their part by helping students adopt healthy eating habits and increase physical activity behavior.
The definition of obesity may be different depending on where it is read, but in general it is a weight greater that what is considered healthy for one’s specific height. By looking around the public schools, the rise in obesity in school aged children can be seen. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, “17.7% of 6-11 year olds and 20.5% of 12-19 year olds”(Ogden, Carroll, Kit ,and Flegal 1) are obese or overweight, which is a big percentage among school aged children. Obesity can be associated with many weight-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer. According to The State Education Standard “61 percent of overweight young people have at least one additional risk factor”(Wechsler, McKenna, Lee, and Dietz 2). For example, years ago type 2 diabetes was very uncommon among youth, but now “in some communities it now accounts for nearly 50 percent of new cases among children”(2). Furthermore, children who are overweight are more likely to be overweight or obese in adulthood.
There are many different factors that come in to play when it comes to obesity. It has been linked to everything from technology, oversized fast food portions, and public schools providing unhealthy snacks and lunches. It is rarely seen now a days that children prefer to play outside rather than play on their PS3 or some sort of electrical gaming system. It is more likely that children who stay inside watching television or playing games will snack more on junk food rather than sit at the table and have a well-balanced meal with family. It is known that consumption of food eaten away from home has a higher calorie count, than if you were to have a home cooked meal. Most of the time it is easier for working parents to stop at the drive thru than to cook a balanced meal at home.
Parents also rely on the public schools to provide a well- balanced meal for their child’s lunches, but little do they know how horrible the schools are doing. For example, a survey taken in 2013 shows that “77% of students could purchase soda pop” and only “18% of students could purchase fruits and vegetables” (www.cdc.gov 1), which goes to show that there needs to be some kind of changes for the youth today. Although schools cannot solve the obesity epidemic on their own, they can make a difference by changing a few things. Schools play an important role because most of the youth today are enrolled in school.
One major change that is necessary today is for public schools to help children adopt healthy eating habits now before it’s too late. Most children follow their childhood eating habits into adulthood, and that is what causes them to be overweight as an adult along with other contributing factors. The public school lunch programs may seem like they have it under control, but looking deeper into the schools shows that, just because they don’t allow certain things at lunch time doesn’t mean the schools are not providing unhealthy snacks to the students. Most schools offer food to students that are outside the federal regulated school meals, such as snacks in vending machines, chocolate candies through fundraising campaigns, and pizza at a class parties. These foods are not allowed in the cafeteria at meal times, however they “can be offered anywhere else on campus at any other time”( Wechsler, McKenna, Lee, and Dietz 3), which shows that even though schools have a specific lunch program, not allowing these foods, schools still provide it to the students.
If public schools were to implement change on eating habits and the foods that are provided to the children maybe obesity rates in children would drop. For example, removing the vending machines with unhealthy snack and replacing them with healthier snack, or instead of selling chocolate bars for fundraising, they could replace them with any other healthier snack still appealing to the youth. Something as simple as that could make a big difference. Another way schools can make a difference is by providing better health education programs promoting better eating habits to students and school staff. “The Directors of Health Promotion and Education is currently developing a guidebook for creating health and wellness programs” (Bushweller 1) that will help motivate students and staff to learn more about healthier eating habits. If the staff and students work together, maybe it will make learning about healthy eating more enjoyable for the students.
Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. This is the way people burn off extra calories consumed not needed for the body. Physical inactivity also is a big contributing factor in childhood obesity. Physical activity is a major part of a child’s daily needs. Children now days prefer to stay in and play games or watch television, rather than being active outside. Studies show that “52% of students did not attend physical education classes” and “33% watched television 3 or more hours per day on an average school day”(www.cdc.gov 1), which shows that the youth and adults today are not taking physical activity as serious as it needs to be taken. It is shown that “well-designed school programs can effectively promote physical activity and reduction in television viewing time”(Koebler 4) within the youth. Schools should implement a high-quality course of study in physical activity by keeping students active for most of physical activity class time, emphasizing skills for lifelong knowledge, and making it an enjoyable experience for the students.
Schools have the potential to help children to establish healthy physical activity pattern, by showing the children at a young age how to excursive and stay active. Having an activity routine as children is important, so that they will continue to stay active in adulthood as well. By keeping the students active for most of the class time and not letting them mope around the yard doing nothing would help. The teacher should have an activity plan to keep them moving most of the time. Children tend to respond better to fun activities rather than just a simple activity done on a daily basis. For example, the physical activity teacher should come up with a fun game like tag or red light green light for the students to play while staying active for the whole class time, so that the students stay active and enjoy themselves while doing so. Most people have just become blind to this issue or don’t take it as serious as it needs to. By increasing children’s physical activity by at least one hour extra each day, could make a big difference in helping solve this problem.
The obesity epidemic is one of the most challenging epidemics of the 21st century. Without a strong participation from schools, it is less likely that we can reverse the epidemic. Improving efforts to promote healthy eating habits and staying active in schools is a big part of what is needed. However, educating young people on how to become healthier, and increasing physical activity alone are insufficient. This is going to need a team effort, from not only schools but government and parents as well. Fortunately, within the past couple of years, a great amount has been learned on how this epidemic can be improved, and these two major issues are a big part. Schools can play a strong role in improving the lives of the youth, by adopting healthy eating habits and increasing physical activity for the students today.
Howell Wechsler, Mary L. McKenna, Sahra M. Lee, and William H. Dietz “The Role of Schools in Preventing Childhood Obesity” December 2004
Bushweller, Kevin. “Physical Education.” Education Week 8 Sept. 2004: 19. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.
Koebler, Jason. “Report: USDA Should Regulate In-School Snacks.” U.S. News & World Report (1 Nov. 2012). Rpt. in Should the Government Regulate
What People Eat? Ed. Ronald D. Lankford, Jr. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2014. At Issue. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.
Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(8):806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732.
Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012 (www.cdc.gov)