5 Ways to Address Childhood Obesity in Education

Childhood obesity rates have been increasing steadily for 30 years. Currently, one-in-three children are considered obese, meaning they have excess body fat. Being overweight or obese happens due to “caloric imbalance”: simply put, children are taking in more calories than they are expending.

Childhood obesity has long-term impacts on our nation’s children. Obese children suffer health problems, prejudice and bullying in school, and depression and self-esteem issues. As adults, they can have difficulty leading productive work lives due to these issues, as well as more serious illnesses including diabetes and heart disease. Twenty percent of healthcare expenditures in the United States can be linked to conditions associated with obesity.

Obesity in general has many contributing factors. Poor eating habits in the home contribute to children not understanding how to get good nutrition. Sedentary lifestyles and lots of screen time at home are exacerbated by lack of physical education classes and recess at school. While parents have to do their part, K-12 educators can contribute to positive outcomes for children at school.

5 Educational Strategies to Fight Obesity

  1. Always be positive, with the focus on being healthy, not on looks or popularity.
  2. Encourage school districts to offer healthy lunch options, including a serving of vegetables and a serving of fruit at each lunch, and drink choices of water or milk.
  3. Ask school districts to limit access to unhealthy drinks like soda (or pop if you’re from Western Pennsylvania) and unhealthy foods, such as from vending machines.
  4. Make sure schools in your district offer physical education programs, including daily recess and classroom breaks to have children move around.
  5. Have schools partner with families and community members in the development and implementation of healthy eating and physical activity policies, practices, and procedures.

Pocket Nurse provides fun classroom tools for educators in K-12 to create awareness and education children about food facts and how to stay healthy. For example, MyPlate Pursuit challenges children with questions about nutrition and physical activity. The U.S. Food Plate poster can be used in health education classes to show portion sizes.

Aaron Vicari is a major account manager at Pocket Nurse. He can be reached at avicari@pocketnurse.com.

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