The Center for Disease Control and Prevention published findings stating low-income schools that participated in obesity prevention programs saw a decline in the rate of obesity in youth. Recently it was published that more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight in 2010. As more attention is given to the problem, organizations are coming up with ways to implement programs to combat childhood obesity.
The published results showed that the prevention programs helped in reducing obesity in youth. In King County, Washington, obesity rates in youth declined 17 percent after schools partnered with Public Health Seattle and King County to activate a two-year Obesity Prevention Initiative. The initiative was part of a program called Community Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) and began in 2012. While obesity in youth declined in all school districts implementing the CPPW program, there was no decline in the districts that did not participate. King County Executive Dow Constantine stated “This successful approach to reducing childhood obesity is a model for our state and our nation.” Constantine elaborated that preventative programs can aid children, and thus entire communities, in leading healthier lifestyles.
Low-income school districts tend to have higher obesity rates and the initiative encourages healthy lifestyles through proper nutrition and exercise. It works closely with middle schools and high schools to improve the quality of physical education and offer healthier food options, thus creating healthy habits that will decrease obesity in future adults.
Another initiative that was adopted by 20 schools in Renton, King County, was to display nutritional information in the form of menus in lunchrooms and on vending machines. These menus provided information about food including calorie content, thereby increasing awareness in youth of what they are eating and drinking when trying to make healthy choices.
Similar programs are being adapted in other parts of the word. In Tallaght, Ireland, researchers studied the long-term effect of obesity prevention programs in schools. Four years after implementing the programs in primary schools, only 16 percent of children were overweight, compared to 25 percent of children from other schools that did not participate. The programs focused on exercise and mental health as well as promoting a nutritional diet with a decreased amount of sugar and calorie-dense foods. Researchers noted that it takes time for the results to be evident but results were extremely positive.
Program workers believe that making investments now for healthier youth can save money in the future on healthcare costs. More people are now believing that preventative programs are crucial to reducing obesity in youth and thus overweight adults. Some schools have started walking programs, ensuring that youth can walk to school safely and get exercise. This is a popular idea amongst school districts because it saves money on busing. Other schools have added healthier lunch menus; instead of pizza and fries, there are salad bars. School workers have said that it is important to get students involved in the preventative programs as they will learn first hand about different things they can do to lead healthy lifestyles.
Children and youth that are obese are found to have external influences that may have an impact on their weight. These influences can come from families, child care settings, social groups, schools, and also the government. Having prevention programs in schools allows children to be educated on healthy lifestyles, which they may not learn in other areas of their lives. By increasing funding and implementing more preventative programs, officials believe that the obesity rates will decline and children will grow to live longer, healthier lives.
By Lian Morrison