“And from military lead…

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“And from military leaders who tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight, childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well. These folks come at this issue from all different angles. But they’ve come together to support this bill because they know that it’s the right thing to do for our kids. And they know that in the long run, it won’t just save money, it will save lives.” Michelle Obama (theswash.com/liberty/michelle-obama-childhood-obesity-is-a-national-security-threat)

Obesity currently affects 23 million children and teenagers and continues to rise.1 In 1980, 6.5% of US children aged 6 to 11 years old were considered obese.  By the year 2008, that percentage rose to approximately 20%.2  A child who is obese has a 70% chance of becoming an obese adult.  If this child has at least one parent who is obese, the child’s chance of becoming obese as an adult increases to 80.2 A study done by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center conducted a study on 1,003 6th graders and found that those children who were obese were more likely to participate in school meal programs than non-obese children.2

On average, approximately 32 million children participate in school meal programs each day.3  Schools enroll 95% of America’s young people and provides one to two meals to the majority of their students.1 Schools are the ideal environment to educate our children about healthy eating habits, and the first way to start is by providing students with healthy meals.

Key stakeholders include students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities.  Young students are primarily concerned with food that tastes good.  Parents are interested in their children eating healthy breakfasts.  It has been shown that students that eat a healthy breakfast are more attentive in class, and do better on tests.4  Educators are interested in their students doing well on tests, behaving in class, and having fewer absences.  Eating a healthy breakfast has been linked to all of the above. School administrators are interested in their students doing well on tests, but are also concerned with cost effective meals.

Schools should emphasize healthy eating habits, exercising, and educating their students by providing nutritious, healthy school meals that provide a good example for the children they serve.

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2 Responses to ““And from military lead…”

  1. erincmasterson Says:

    Framing the childhood obesity epidemic as a national security threat is an interesting way to look at this issue. As someone who has worked in military healthcare for several years, I agree that healthy eating and healthy living habits must be ingrained in children and young adults far before they enter adulthood. If these children do choose to join the military, or another challenging, stressful career, having these habits ingrained in their daily routine will help them be healthier and more successful throughout their lives.

    One of the things the new Surgeon General of the U.S. Army has just announced as her next big initiative is a move from “Healthcare to Health.” This means the Army will begin to focus on soldiers as whole human beings, and not just a collection of symptoms that need to be treated. It also means that the military will begin to focus on the “white space” – that is, the space throughout a soldier’s life when they are not being seen by a doctor, but living life and dealng with its many challenges as well as opportunities for healthy interventions. So, apart from the 5 20-minute outpatien visits per year when a soldier can see a doctor, there are multiple opportunities to make health interventions – from smoking prevention/cessation, healthy eating education and support, psychological readiness and therapy, and family and community health. It is the time between the doctor visits – i.e. the white space – when health really happens. I think this could be an approach for childhood nutrition and health as well; we need to take every opportunity available to educate and provide support to children and their families to learn and live healthy habits.

  2. jmspur Says:

    The data regarding childhood obesity rates in the US are horrifying at best. Clearly, action must be taken so that these unhealthy children do not grow up to be sick adults. They deserve to lead a long, healthy, productive life.

    What is the data regarding the SES status of those utilizing school meal plans? My guess is that they are in the lower strata. Unfortunately, lower SES is associated with obesity in many racial and ethnic groups. So while these individuals who are of lower SES, and thus need to utilize school meal plans, may be obese can we draw the conclusion that the nutritional content of these foods are resulting in these individuals’ obesity? I think we need more data.

    Clearly, individuals learn eating, cooking, and exercise habits from their families. While schools should be obligated to provide regular physical activity for children and healthy food choices, they are not the only ones who bear responsibility for the childhood obesity epidemic. Everyone who has a child in their care should take steps to ensure a happy and healthy childhood. School provides an excellent opportunity to educate kids as they are a captive audience. But families and communities must also do their part. When families, schools, communities, and lawmakers partner up and all work towards this common goal, we will see the necessary improvements to help the youths of America.

    Thanks for your post. This is an incredibly important topic.

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