By Stephanie Bush, Keene State College Dietetic Intern
In recent decades, the problems of overweight and obesity have become a nationwide epidemic for adults, and as of late, the epidemic has grown to include children.
In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General even considered the obesity epidemic to be the greatest health problem facing the nation, and the statistics are not looking any better today. In fact, 1/3 of children and adolescents ages 10 to 15 were affected by overweight and obesity in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are a plethora of factors that contribute to this epidemic — from food and our environment to policies put in place at the government level. The problem is multifactorial; if solutions are to be successful, they must address physical activity, food, marketing, healthcare, the workplace and schools, to name a few.
Every Kid Healthy
One very promising solution is emerging in the “Every Kid Healthy” movement. This movement aims to strengthen and foster a healthy environment where kids spend a great amount of their time — in schools.
Schools are an important player in this fight because health habits are developed early on in life, and research has shown that those who develop good habits early on have a better chance of being successful in school as well as maintaining a healthy weight as adults.
Some schools, such as those in Arkansas, have restricted sales of vending machine food and sodas in elementary schools. Other schools have developed “smart snack” policies that regulate the types of snacks and drinks that the school purchases for their students. Schools in Connecticut and North Carolina have implemented laws protecting their children’s access to physical education and recess. Schools are also revitalizing, revamping or creating school breakfast programs, nutrition education and family activities to help fight obesity.
Schools all over the country are getting parents, PTOs, teachers, community leaders and businesses involved — and so can you!
How to Get Involved
The New Hampshire Every Kid Healthy Team has multiple upcoming events to prepare for Every Kid Healthy Week which happens the last week of April every year. During this week, communities are encouraged to host events related to the mission of Every Kid Healthy.
New Hampshire events planned for upcoming months can be found on the Action for Healthy Kids Website.
But why wait for a special week to encourage your community to be healthier, happier and more successful?
Here are some ideas that can be done in your schools, or just personally with your family:
- Host healthy foods taste test with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products
- Host a school wellness fair
- Invite a local gym or fitness trainer to lead a family Zumba, yoga or other fitness class
- Plant a school garden or refresh an existing one
- Invite parents and students to participate in a school walk-a-thon
- You can also contact the Healthy Monadnock School Champions program for help!
The problem of childhood obesity should be a concern for us all, and it is going to take all the people power we have to help correct it.
What are you willing to do to help make schools in your area healthier? Let us know in the comments!