- A study led by the Yale School of Public Health, in conjunction with the University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, reveals school policies and programs promoting heathy eating can limit obesity. The study, which focused on the results of students at 12 New Haven schools, found those at schools with enhanced support for healthy food policies had an increase in BMI of less than 1%, while those at schools without such programs saw increases in BMI of 3% to 4%, Medical Xpress reports.
- Some implemented policies that were studied include making sure all school-based meals met federal guidelines, providing nutrition newsletters to students and their families, school-wide campaigns to encourage drinking water and limiting sugary drinks, and discouraging the use of food or beverages as rewards. Physical activity policies were also tested, but researchers found that this alone had little or no effect on BMI.
- The study noted that more than 20% of students in the study are currently obese and more than half are either overweight or obese.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly one in five children ages 6 to 19 was obese in the 2015-16 academic year. Childhood obesity should be a concern, not only for school administrators, but also for citizens at large. Childhood obesity can affect physical health and well-being, mental health and self-esteem, and by heightening the risk for teasing and bullying, it can also affect school attendance. But is also has the greater potential for resulting in adult obesity, which strains the health of the individual and the health care system.
This study was released a week after the Trump administration announced it would cut some Obama-era nutrition policies that were aimed at promoting healthier lifestyles and reducing obesity. While critics said these policies encouraged better habits — and research said the meals weren't met with significant changes in meal participation — the School Nutrition Association had been arguing for relaxing the rules for years, citing increased costs, lower student participation and food waste as factors. Finding a proper balance between nutritious foods and ones that appeal to children can be a challenge, but creative food swaps and a growth in school gardens is causing some students to look at healthy foods in a fresh, new way.
School policies can affect obesity levels, and administrators can take steps toward encouraging healthy lifestyles and preventing it through not only school nutrition programs, but also by changing the school environment and encouraging physical activity. Supporting children's health not only benefits the child — it also improves school climate and attendance, and it yields future societal benefits by producing stronger, healthier citizens.