Letter: Schools can fight obesity

I am writing to address the childhood obesity epidemic and how schools can help mitigate the problem.

 

The prevalence of obesity in preschool-age children went from approximately 4 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2010. This percentage seems low, but if this trend continues, the prevalence in 2020 will reach 9 percent, or 60 million people.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately one in 10 school-age (5-17 years old) children are overweight or obese. This epidemic can and needs to be alleviated, since childhood obesity has long-term effects on mortality and morbidity.

The rates of diabetes, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, hip fracture and gout are increased in those who were overweight as children. Additionally, psychological consequences are shown for women who suffered from obesity during late adolescence. Due to the strong correlation between childhood obesity and adult morbidity and mortality, more effective prevention and treatment of childhood obesity should be pursued.

School provides an immersive experience for children, meaning schools have a unique opportunity to tackle obesity. The mission of schools is to educate. Education is a direct avenue schools can pursue. Nutrition and physical activity should be included into everyday curricula.

These programs should encourage students to choose and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Schools should also educate students on health markers such as the Body Mass Index. More obvious solutions are to provide healthier options and eventually eliminate unhealthy foods in the cafeteria. Faculty and staff should also maintain healthy lifestyles in order to be role models for the students.

There is ample evidence concluding that school-based prevention programs can successfully help students choose and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, promoting a healthy lifestyle in the school systems does not require many additional resources. Schools serve as an integral part of the fight against childhood obesity, and the sooner we act the better.

Rachel Shealy

Aiken, S.C.

 

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