Progress in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity
By Emma Chadband
At 12 years old, Brooke Mennella weighed 194 pounds. On her 5’ frame, the extra weight made her uncomfortable in her own body and she felt like she couldn’t fit in with any of the children at school. She turned to food for comfort.
When she realized she couldn’t get to 200 pounds without suffering from obesity related health problems, her mom enrolled her at a local gym and found her a personal trainer.
“We all have to start somewhere, and we should make small changes first,” Mennella told the Huffington Post.
She started taking Zumba and Les Mills classes and learning how to eat healthy meals. Gradually, Mennella lost 90 pounds. Now 14 years old, she wants to become a personal trainer and Zumba instructor to help other kids and teenagers lose weight.
Kids and teens across the country have similar success stories. September is the second annual national childhood obesity awareness month, and the country is starting to see some falling obesity rates. In 2008, more than one third of U.S. children were obese, but this year two states and two cities have seen a drop in obesity rates thanks to comprehensive health and awareness programs.
Philadelphia and New York City had 4.7 and 5.5 percent drops, respectively, in their obesity rates in children aged kindergarten to 12th grade and kindergarten to eighth grade. California had a 1.1 percent drop in obesity rates in children in grades 5, 7, and 9, and Mississippi had a whopping 13.3 percent drop in obesity rates in children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Childhood obesity is a complicated issue, and there is no single way to fight it, but these cities and states used strategies that address multiple aspects of childhood obesity. They required restaurant menu labeling and nutrition standards for snack foods and drinks sold in schools, and made fresh fruits and vegetables available in underserved neighborhoods. They also encouraged physical activity at school.
In order to keep students fit and healthy, schools can promote wellness policies that promote healthier eating, they can start a Safe Routes to School program to encourage biking and walking to school, or they can start programs to incorporate physical activity before, during and after the school day, such as a school garden.
The NEA Health and Information Network said the results in Mississippi, California, New York City and Philadelphia are “exciting and promising, but there’s still a lot of work to do to get obesity rates down across the country.”
For more tips and tricks for healthy schools, follow @NEAHIN on Twitter.