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Schools Have Started Walking; Now, Let’s Get Them Running

Filed Under: Baby and Child Health at 4:28 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
SchoolUsually, it’s bad news. When health and children combine, we are, more often than not, faced with obesity reports, epidemic-like inactivity, increased diagnoses and little hope. The horror that has become childhood health has steadily increased along with our youths’ waistlines. It has gotten to the point that in the United Kingdom, the government is sending warning letters to the parents of obese children.  And in the United States, we are convinced that every child is rolling in cellulite. So, it is with great delight that I am able to tell you there is some good news. Schools have made a difference.

A recently released, 2006 survey of American schools found that the past six years have seen marked improvements in nutrition, fitness and overall health.  French fries, high-fat baked goods and junk food in general have been replaced with salads, low-fat yogurt and low-fat salty snacks. Cafeterias are cooking more health-consciously, removing the skin from poultry and opting for reduced-fat dairy. Ninety-three percent of school districts require elementary-school physical education, and courses on pregnancy prevention and sexual awareness are now being offered more readily and earlier. Moreover, programs, such as Healthy Buddies and Mighty Milers are popping up throughout the country, providing children with the opportunity to make healthy choices. The education system has, in a matter of years, taken enormous steps to better our children’s lives. However, we can’t get too excited, and we can’t stop there.

While there have been numerous achievements, more needs to be done. There are still fountains of soft drinks, dripping with sugar, fat and empty calories, pouring into the schools Name brands such as Taco Bell and Pizza Hut continue to dominate the cafeterias, and physical education, while required, is not regular. Only 8 percent of middle schools offer daily gym class; elementary and high schools are worse.  The problem is that while many schools are acting, it’s not every one. And, that’s what needs to happen. All of the schools need to take action. School boards, teachers, parents and students must aggressively pursue the creation of a healthier environment in their classrooms. Until this is done, the obesity problem will continue to grow. But, take heart. Look at what we’ve done with the last six years and imagine what we can do with the next.

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