Friday, January 11, 2013

Do Our Schools Make Our Children Fat?!

Winter break is the greatest idea ever. Sleeping works miracles!! Well, it was another crazy busy end of the year, starting with Thanksgiving celebrations to New Year's Celebration. Recently, I have been noticing the amount of food (PLENTY) at such gatherings. While some countries suffer from poverty, the United States faces its own problems. Over the recent twenty years, obesity has increased dramatically in the United States. Childhood obesity has increased even more; according to the centers for disease control and prevention, childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. In 1980, 7 percent of children were reported to be obese. In 2008, 20 percent of children were reported to be obese. Currently, more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight and obese; obesity is a prevalent epidemic, affecting many people in the Unites States. We all know this.

So, what are some of the causes of childhood obesity? School environments play a significant role in perpetuating childhood obesity. Children and adolescents spend most of their time in schools. Food and dieting environment, health and nutritional education, physical education, peer network in school perpetuate obesity. 

            In the United States, 99 percent of all pubic schools and 83 percent of perivate schools participate in the National School Lunch Program. Of those students attending schools, about 60 percent of students eat at school and 37 eat breakfast. (Blue) Though all nationally provided meals meet the dietary regulations of average Americans, most schools allow students to buy competitive foods. Competitive foods low nutrition, highly fattening snacks in vending machines or other low-nutrition food accessible to students, sold though fundraising. Vending machines have become extremely common in schools and this rise of vending machines correlates with the increase obesity rate. 
           Such low-nutritious processed competitive foods add unnecessary calories to individual’s diet. Even worse, they replace fruits and vegetables. According to SHPPS, 78 percent of high school students had consumed fruits and vegetables less than five times per day during the seven days before taking the survey. 
          Being a psudo-health freak, I know the negative consequences of making such choices. Still, during exam weeks at Brown, my sleep-deprived-stressed-out-self often fall into the temptations of the evil, but so delicious, candy bars. I wish that Brown would make more effort to offer healthy alternatives. 

          Another school characteristic that perpetuates obesity is the lack of physical activity in the school curriculum. In the nation, 2 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education. According to Story and others, only 10 percent of schools required physical standards (Story, Nanney & Shwartz, 2009) As the data demonstrates, schools place very little importance on physical education, promoting a sedentary lifestyle.

In conclusion....
Obesity, like many diseases, is affected by various factors, such as genetics, environment, socio-economic status. Though one cannot point directly to schools as the cause of obesity epidemic in children, an examination of the school characteristics show that schools do not foster  healthy life-styles. One may argue schools are not responsible for promoting healthy behavirs among children. However, making healthy choices should be (if it is not now) emphasized in schools. Students’ status on health has a strong association with academic and social performance. Obesity is a best combatted with preventive measures and schools are best suited to  for this purpose.


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