Report urges federal action in responding to children's health at schools
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
A recent report issued by the Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) and Trust for America's Health (TFAH) is calling for immediate federal intervention in school systems across the U.S. to close the academic and health achievement gap among children.
Nationwide, obesity is rising and affecting the overall wellness of children. This alarming trend, which could have negative repercussions on the future of the country, may be curtailed with health and exercise programs intended to promote activity in youngsters.
Incorporating health and wellness into school activities
Referred to as Health in Mind, the report released by the HSC and TFAH outlines a framework by which its authors believe the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services can address the urgent health and wellness needs of children without exceeding current regulatory or budgetary restraints.
"The truth is that vast health disparities exist in our nation and far too many children attend school in environments that do not support their health," said Rochelle Davis, president and CEO of HSC. "Unless we address these challenges, our efforts to close the achievement gap will be compromised. The consequences are enormous for children's learning and for their lifetime health."
Health in Mind urges the federal government to use available resources to prepare educators to promote wellness in schools, support parent involvement in health plans, incorporate wellness and healthy lifestyle behaviors into recognition programs at school and fund the placement of nurses in every school.
The report also examines the connection between disparities in fitness and academic performances and outcomes in an effort to understand the impact that one may have on the other and to close the achievement gap.
"We are beginning to see an important shift in the way the nation addresses health and wellness," said Jeffrey Levi , Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. "With Health in Mind and the National Prevention Strategy, we've begun to move toward integrating and thinking about health in all of the contexts... that impact health."
Childhood obesity on the rise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of childhood obesity have more than tripled over the past 30 years. In 2008 - the most recent year in which statistics were recorded - more than one-third of children were classified as either overweight or obese.
One of the leading causes of weight gain for children is physical inactivity, which can lead to a variety of health problems, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol as well as diabetes.
In order to prevent children from being affected by obesity, the American Heart Association recommends that youngsters over the age of 2 engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily.
Increasing exercise among kids
While adults recognize that exercise is an important part of maintaining long-term wellness, for kids, this connection may not appear so clear-cut.
For youngsters, playing outside with friends or participating in games during recess often constitutes the bulk of their physical exercise. This can be a great way for kids to get a good calorie burn going, and according to the Nemours Foundation, engaging in aerobic activities like basketball, cycling, swimming or playing soccer can help children enjoy better levels of fitness and build deeper friendships with peers.
Parents who want to encourage exercise for their kids should also consider the benefits of enrolling at a gym or YMCA. Kid-oriented YMCA fitness solutions can help children struggling with their weight work out in a friendly and knowledgeable environment.