Helping Future Generations

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Child Eating McDonalds, Unattributed

This photograph emphasizes the common stereotype that fast food is causing obesity in American children. This image displays two young boys, who are overweight eating McDonalds.   While obesity rates are growing in the U.S, educating American children in school could help instill healthy eating habits and improve society’s health.

As obesity has transformed from a problem to an epidemic in the United States, and prevention appears to be the most effective solution, future obesity rates could be reduced by implementing programs at schools that focus on promoting the importance of nutrition and fitness in younger generations.

Publicizing information about nutrition and fitness in school environments would be beneficial. School environments have become a place that promotes physical inactivity and increased consumption of unhealthy food.  “Focusing on this environment will help increase awareness to children at a young age in order for them to stay informed of the importance of nutrition and exercise” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  It would further educate students on current obesity-related problems, encouraging them to make healthy lifestyle choices. If young children are exposed to issues on obesity and are aware of the importance of remaining healthy, future obesity rates are predicted to decrease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  In order for school programs to be most effective, a focus must be placed on prevention.  Despite the improvements that still need to be made, several schools around the country are beginning to take action.

This school in particular has already seen compelling improvements in their students’ health.  The principal has made an active effort to set aside time each day to focus on the children’s fitness and nutrition. These two factors have been proven to be advantageous in preventing obesity. Because of the progress this school has made, they have earned national recognition. Programs similar to this one could be beneficial in other schools around the country. It has the potential to help prevent obesity rates from further perpetuating. Due to the fact that students spend a large amount of time at school, school environments affect the way children develop habits around healthy lifestyle choices.

“The school food environment has the potential to have a large impact on children’s and adolescents’ diets because they consume a substantial proportion (between 19 and 50 percent) of their total daily calories at school” (Story, Nanney, and Schwatz  73).  Keeping this in consideration, children do not have their parents there to monitor what they eat while at school. Despite the fact that parents may try to teach their children to make healthy eating choices, children are often inclined to follow their peers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  If unhealthy food choices are easily accessible, commonly consumed, and cheap in nature, it is likely students will take advantage of the unhealthy options due to the convenience and cost.

School food choices can be split into two different sections: federal lunch and breakfast programs, and foods and beverages sold outside the formal meal plan, such as those in vending machines. The latter of the two sections is commonly known as competitive foods because they compete with the nutritionally regulated school programs. A direct correlation has been recognized between competitive foods and obese students; the more competitive foods readily available results in a higher number of overweight students.  “33 percent of elementary schools, 71 percent of middle schools, and 89 percent of high schools had a vending machine, school store, canteen, or snack bar where students could purchase food or beverages” (Story, Nanney, and Schwatz 73). Although eliminating competitive food completely has previously resulted in complications, a high percentage of parents believe schools in particular must find alternative solutions that improve the health of their children.

An experiment was conducted that found parents cited schools more often than health care providers. These parents believe it is the schools responsibility to reduce obesity. “Up to 65% of parents feel schools should play a major role in efforts to curb obesity. The majority of US children are schooled outside the home, thus the education system provides an established infrastructure for targeted implementation of childhood public health interventions. Schools offer access to children, the facilities requisite for classroom or physical education interventions, and the personnel capable of being involved in such efforts” (Kropski, Keckley and Jenson) The ideal school based prevention program would reduce obesity rates in future generations by facilitating permanent improvements in nutrition and fitness. Prevention has shown to be the most cost effective and efficient option; this makes it evident that prevention programs have the most potential to improve obesity rates in children and future generations (Kropski, Keckley and Jenson).

Obesity is continuing to grow at an uncontrollable rate in the U.S. Implementing prevention programs in schools that educate young students of the importance of nutrition and fitness has the potential to decrease future obesity rates. These programs alone may not fully fix the rising issue of obesity, but it is a start.  “While the schools alone cannot solve the childhood obesity epidemic, it also is unlikely that childhood obesity rates can be reversed without strong school-based policies and programs to support healthy eating and physical activity” (Story, Nanney, and Schwatz 72). As the stereotype of the “lazy Americans” is continuously perpetuated, it seems evident that obesity needs to be addressed before the quality of life for millions of Americans needlessly declines.

Bibliography

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and Overweight. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

Kropski, Jonathan,  Paul Keckley, and Gordon Jensen.  “School-based Obesity Prevention Programs: An Evidence-based Review” Wiley Online Library: Obesity A Research Journal 16.5 (2008): 1009-1018. Web 20 Oct. 2013.

Story, Mary, Marilyn Nanney, and  Marlene Schwatz. “Schools and Obesity Prevention: Creating School Environments and Policies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity.” Milbank Quarterly 87.1 (2009): 71-100. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

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