So Long Cupcake! How You Can Help Fight The Obesity Epidemic in the United States. Jenine De Marzo, Ed.D Assistant Professor Department of Health Studies Adelphi University Garden City, New York
Many scientists & health care providers think that this is the first generation of children that will not live as long as their parents. • Olshansky, SJ, Passaro, DJ, Hershow, RC, Layden J, Carnes, BA, Brody, J, Hayflick, L, Butler, RN, Allison, DB, Ludwig, DS. N Engl J Med. 2005 Jun 16;352(24):2555.
The Scope of the Obesity Epidemic • We know that the prevalence of obesity in all segments of U.S. society has escalated to epidemic proportions. Over the past 30 years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2 to 5 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years, and it has more than tripled for children 6 to 11 years of age. • Roughly 9 million children over 6 years are considered obese (Koplan, Liverman, Kraak, & Wisham, 2006). Childhood obesity is clearly an epidemic in need of preventive and intervention efforts.
No Data <10% 10%–14% Obesity Trends* Among U.S. AdultsBRFSS, 1985 (*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs overweight for 5’ 4” woman)
Obesity* Trends Among U.S. AdultsBRFSS, 2003 No Data <10% 10%–14% 15%–19% 20%-24% 25% Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, CDC
Socio-environmental Influences on Childhood Obesity • Individual (individual choice & responsibility) • Dietary intake, physical activity, sedentary behavior • Influenced by knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, skills • Interpersonal • Families, friends, peers • Teachers, coaches, school personnel and other role models • Institutional • Schools, after school programs • Rules, regulations, policies that predispose particular behaviors
Circle of Influence for concerned adults, parents and professionals regarding childhood obesity Public Policy Factors Federally Legislated Wellness Community Factors Trans fat ban Institutional Factors Wellness Policy KidFit Bill Families Interpersonal Factors School Individual Wellness Committee Parent Involvement All influence health behavior Physical Activity opportunities
Window of Opportunity • The magnitude of this problem warrants a multifaceted approach across several disciplines to promote health and prevent disease in our most valuable resource, our children. • Due to the scope of this epidemic, the academic community, the private sector and the government have begun to aggressively intervene.
Federally Mandated Wellness! • District-wide wellness policy to promote student health and reduce childhood obesity • Goals for nutrition education and physical activity • Establish nutrition guidelines for all foods available on campus • Meet or exceed current USDA nutrition standards for reimbursable meals • New York State Department of Education legislation • 918. School district nutrition advisory committees. 1. a. Every school district is hereby authorized and encouraged to establish a child nutrition advisory committee.
School Wellness Policies and Committees • The focus of the Wellness Policy asserts that schools must identify and implement better defined nutrition education goals and increase physical activity for every school aged child. • Schools have been mandated to action; schools must renew and expand their roles in providing and promoting health and wellness for our nations young.
Classroom Teacher, Parent, Community Interventions: Making a Difference One Class at a Time • Assessment –what’s being done in your schools? • Identify and prioritize opportunities for change-food/activity • Identify & involve stakeholders-that means YOU! • Develop an awareness & education plan-talk it up! • Create policies-activity celebrations, limit food in the classroom • Help implement procedures with specific goals • Evaluate impact-do the children like the alternative?
How I have tried to influence change? • “So Long Cupcake” program focuses on a true collaboration of increasing health/wellness education and increasing daily physical activity in the classroom. • The premise of “So Long Cupcake” asserts that classroom teachers, parents and community volunteers, take on the challenge of changing the “cupcake” mentality shared by students and parents alike.
The “So Long Cupcake” initiative focuses on two components. First, to increase daily physical activity throughout the school day, and second to increase overall student wellness through health inspired activities. • Teachers can start by offering various wellness inspired activities in lieu of traditional celebrations.
The “So Long Cupcake” initiative has been field tested in two very different school districts. 1. Suburban, upper middle class neighborhood 2. Urban/underserved, lower income school district. The initiative was presented as professional development for classroom teachers. The idea was to provide the tools necessary for the elementary school professional. Educators were introduced to a variety of wellness activities that can be done within the confines of the classroom and can take as little as 10 minutes and as long as 30 minutes to complete.
In both school districts, the activities were well received by both the students and teachers. • Many teachers also claimed that they had little or no preparation in terms of teaching wellness or organizing physical activities in the classroom setting.
The assertion here is to promote physical activity throughout the day, in addition to required physical education class, so students and educators alike will see that the daily implementation of physical activity is agreeable and satisfying. Children will not miss the junk food! • Classroom teachers and parents of Pre-k through 6th grade students are on the front lines, as they have the most potential for influencing habitual activity.
Get Involved! • All stakeholders must realize that this is their responsibility too, they must act as a catalyst for change. Today’s children have been born into a culture relatively devoid of physical work in their daily activities. • It is imperative to take the focus of these celebrations off food and placed on movement and other fun activities.
Every concerned adult has an emerging role in ensuring that our children have the opportunity for movement and sound nutrition education each day. • This involves promoting a culture of wellness that begins at home and transcends the school day. By the models that influence them the most!
All the stakeholders must welcome the change in culture and support the teachers that spend 30 minutes running relays or doing yoga in the classroom for Johnny’s birthday. • Parents’ should be encouraged to forget the goody-bag and let the children do what they do best, play and have fun.
Conclusion • Changing the “cupcake culture” is in our grasp as administrators, educators and as parents. A challenge of this stature seems daunting but so are the alternatives; a future in which our children will live less full lives, marred by physical, social, and emotional limitations placed upon them by adults that were willing to give them too much and require very little in return.