Monday, July 25, 2011

Childhood Obesity Epidemic Calls for Afterschool Action

In this brief by Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, they account for the obesity in the Central Valley. However, as many educators have now realized, obesity and malnutrition are not area or site-specific issues. Nutrition related issues are wide-spread and demanding our attention.

As an active player in afterschool, it is vital that you take part in the structure of the nutritional approach of your site. Afterschool is a foundational learning and training time – and those values should not stop with the way your students and staff snack or engage in physical activity. See the article below, and visit their site to see the research and findings the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation has made in bringing hope to afterschool nutritional efforts.

Afterschool programs provide a healthy dose of physical activity, nutritious snack and active learning. But an extra measure of obesity prevention may be needed to combat a condition of epidemic proportion among Central Valley youth.

Lack of consistent fitness activity, poor food choices and lack of healthy food access, as well as insufficient health understanding have led to a startling increase in overweight and obese students, particularly in low-income areas and communities of color.

The research reveals cause for considerable concern:

• One in three children in California is overweight or obese. The percentage of overweight children in the nation has more than doubled, and more than tripled in teenagers. More than 80% of obese children will also be obese as adults.

• We are faced with a generation of children predicted to be the first ever to die at a younger age than their parents due to poor health caused by obesity and poor lifestyle habits.

• The United States has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. Obesity is the leading cause of preventable death, and is now the fastest-growing cause of illness and death in America, according to the Surgeon General’s office.

• More than 30% of boys and 40% of girls born in California will be diagnosed with diabetes in their lifetime. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that nearly half of African-American and Hispanic children are likely to develop diabetes. It is estimated that more than 7% of teenagers already have pre-diabetic conditions.

• Just 29% of children in the U.S. participate in physical activity one full hour per day, while 62% of children ages 9-13 do not participate in any organized physical activity outside of school hours. However, one study reveals that children spend an average of 6.5 hours a day on electronic media.

Afterschool Poised to Take Action

Afterschool professionals find themselves in a unique position to make a difference. Daily, measured, fun nutrition and fitness activities can help students develop healthier lifestyles in a safe, supportive environment. Afterschool leaders are keenly aware that healthy eating and physical activity will also improve academic performance and decrease behavior problems in students.

Central Valley Afterschool Foundation joins the many organizations around the country that advocate and provide resources for the development of a focused fitness-health-nutrition (FHN) curriculum. Are you ready to kick obesity prevention up a notch in your program? Here are eight considerations as you take your next steps:

1. Afterschool is all about creative approaches. FHN curriculum does not have to be boring or prescriptive—it can simply facilitate intentional play. Be creative with learning and activity games. Give students team projects in fitness, health and nutrition for hands-on learning. Create competitions, awards, annual themes, and thematic presentations. You can even integrate fun art, math, science, social studies, and language arts extensions around the FHN core.

2. Address all aspects of healthy eating. Nutrition curriculum can include inventive, interactive lessons on food groups, eating patterns, cooking, portion control, energy density, reading food labels, cultural food, family traditions, eating disorders, size discrimination, nutritional deficiencies, access and choices, hunger and fullness, and body image. Be sure to explore the rich local farming resources available in the Central Valley with guest speakers, farmer’s markets and school gardens.

3. Ensure that students are active one hour per day. Try to maintain continuous activity at least 30 of the 60 minutes. This may involve games, recreational activity, dance, martial arts, obstacle courses, and competitions. Don’t forget to warm-up and stretch!

4. Develop conscious behavior and attitude changes. Explore the psychosocial elements and barriers to behavioral change with students. The importance of empowerment, self-worth, respect, diversity, persistence, and the social environment cannot be underestimated. Incorporate dialogue and the student voice into lesson planning.

5. Measure progress and change. Are your goals behavioral and/or physical improvements? Will students set their own goals? Determine how you will measure and communicate outcomes. Keep in mind the sensitivity some students may have to openly sharing physical results. Make sure your FHN program goals center on health-promoting behaviors, not weight.

6. Integrate FHN activity and information into existing courses. For example, each day in your dance classes, give selected students a card with an FHN question and answer for health literacy, then have them quiz the group at the start and finish of each class. Alternatively, ask students to set dance activity goals, then keep a record of their non-stop movement activity in class along with pre/post -strength and flexibility improvements.

7. Promote parent, school, community, and staff engagement. How can staff role model healthy behaviors for students? How can you gain parent and school involvement in an afterschool health and fitness initiative or an afterschool wellness festival? What community groups or individuals can support your FHN lessons or provide needed equipment? Dream a little and find the answers to questions that may take your program to the next level.

8. Develop the whole person and add a greater cause. Besides focusing on personal improvement, engage students in a cause greater than themselves. Perhaps you can help them become part of a national fitness or nutrition movement, or join a childhood obesity cause. You could involve them in an FHN-related competition among schools, so they will work just a little harder to help their team. Finally, there is no worthier cause than to teach students how to promote a healthier lifestyle among peers, in their school, in their community, and at home.

Don’t forget to check out the Consult 4 Kids website to see other experience speaks posts.

1 comment:

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