School strategies to combat obesity epidemic

Skyrocketing obesity among young children and the ways in which schools can help address the epidemic, as well as educating students about healthy lifestyles, is the focus of the newest edition of the State Education Standard, the journal of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

"The sheer number of overweight children and the detrimental health implications for their long-term well-being are staggering. Because healthy nutritional habits and lifestyles are formed early in life, schools have a profound obligation to provide comprehensive instruction about diet and physical activity. State boards of education have an important role to play in addressing the needs of the whole child so each student can achieve their full academic potential," said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director.

The percentage of children who are overweight has doubled over the past twenty-five years. During the same time, obesity rates for adolescents have tripled. The effects of this epidemic are imposing an appalling toll on individual health and economic vitality. Type 2 diabetes in children that was once rare is now commonplace. And the Surgeon General has estimated the economic impact of obesity at $117 billion annually. Given this crisis among school children, public schools have a vital role to play in keeping their charges as healthy as possible. The Standard is bringing this information and effective policies to the attention of education leaders at all levels.

Articles in the journal come from a wide range of authors with medical, public health, and education policy expertise. They cover such areas as understanding the problem of childhood obesity, school wellness policies, vending machines, the role of physical activity, and school district nutrition standards.

Publication of this edition of the Standard was made possible by a grant from Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., which was the source of concern among a few special interest groups last fall. "Some have misconstrued or tried to misrepresent this modest contribution as 'buying access' or promoting their diet to students," Welburn said. "Those concerns are simply unfounded. On this issue we have a common interest and shared belief that well-informed leaders and well-informed students are in the best position to make knowledgeable decisions about education, nutrition, and lifestyles. NASBE has maintained editorial control throughout, and at no time did Atkins seek special favor or coverage."

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