Nowadays, there is a wide range of problems related to the life and health of people in the United States and all over the world. Because care that we take of children remains one of the most important factors defining the future of our society, it is extremely important to pay increased attention to health issues that occur in children and may decrease the quality of lives of future generations in general. The particular problem that needs to be addressed when it comes to the health of children is related to growing obesity rates. According to the plan proposed in the given paper, school nurses and teachers should play an important role in childhood obesity prevention because educational facilities possess a lot of opportunities to provide children with information that can change their lives and health condition for the better (“School-Based Obesity Prevention Strategies for State Policymakers” par. 2).
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Causes/ Factors Affecting the Challenge
As for the factors that cause the given problem, it needs to be said that the primary sources of growing obesity rates are the following: lack of education related to healthy eating decreased physical activity of children and growing popularity of fast food. In our plan, we will focus on mitigating the influence of all these factors.
Consequences/ Present Situation
There is no doubt that the problem of childhood obesity may be regarded as one of the most urgent issues related to health. At the same time, it cannot be stated that childhood obesity rates have started to grow recently; instead, according to the information reported more than ten years ago, the percentage of obese children has started increasing since the middle of the twentieth century (Wechsler et al. 2). About the present situation, it can be said that “one child out of five is overweight or obese” and this tendency continues to develop (“National prevention strategy” 34). As it is clear from the most recent statistics, the situation is very unstable for one from 12 to 19 years old as obesity rates among this age group seem to grow quite rapidly (“Obesity Rates & Trends Overview” par. 3). Apart from the UAE, such a tendency seems to exist in other developed countries due to the growing consumption of fast food and insufficient level of physical activity. Considering that, there is an urgent need for a plan that will include a list of measures capable of ameliorating the situation and preventing children belonging to different social groups from becoming obese.
The Role of Community in Obesity Prevention
The importance of community and practices that it uses in childhood obesity prevention is difficult to overestimate as the community is supposed to establish and maintain food culture in the younger generation. Community-based interventions involve many tasks that have been proven effective; they include providing children with access to fruit and vegetable and increasing their physical activity level and these tasks remain essential components of success.
As with school-based interventions, those most successful in community settings (e.g. primary health-care settings, religious settings, sporting centers) generally consist of a variety of activities; they usually include both diet and physical activity components and have a strong educational component. To date, however, few interventions have been evaluated in terms of their cost-effectiveness and sustainability (“Population-Based Approaches to Childhood Obesity Prevention” par. 3).
Methods for Control and Prevention/ Goals and Objectives of the Plan
There is a wide range of methods that can be used to control the situation and prevent further spreading of the disease. The methods outlined in the plan touch upon such spheres as nutrition, physical activity, and education.
The plan proposed in the given paper is aimed at fulfilling the following goal:
- To reduce the number of school students (children from 7 to 17 years old) who are obese and overweight by 2019
- The objectives that were singled out during the preparatory stage are related to fulfilling the following tasks:
- To provide school students with access to knowledge concerning the principles of healthy eating and exercise
- To teach school students how to notice negative changes related to their health
- To ensure that there are enough physical education lessons in the schedule and that children with different BMI can exercise without detriment to their health
- To implement new school nutrition system to ensure that students in all schools in the region are provided with balanced meals, snacks and that the use of unhealthy products that may cause an abnormal increase in weight (such as sweet desserts, sugar, processed meat, butter, and sweet drinks) is limited
- To encourage children to increase their physical activity outside the school as summer camping
- To develop an additional education program for school nurses touching upon physiological and psychological problems of overweight and obese children and implement it to help them to develop certain skills related to work with obese children and, therefore, improve the results of other initiatives
Several strategies have been selected during developing the plan, and the decisions were based on the proven effectiveness of the measures outlined in the plan. There is no doubt that obesity prevention with the help of schools should start with the dissemination of knowledge on healthy eating and limiting children’s access to food that is high in calories but contains no vitamins and minerals necessary for the growing organism. Also, it is impossible to develop an effective plan without considering the physical activity level. Due to that, a few measures allowing children (with normal BMI or obese) to take part in active games and exercise without the damage to their health.
Outline of the Plan
Considering the identified goal, it is necessary to single out the most important measures that will have to be implemented at schools in the region to decrease the number of obese children by 2019. To begin with, it is necessary to understand that measures proposed should constitute a system helping children who belong to different social groups to receive equal support. To achieve significant results, specialists at schools are required to implement the given recommendations to improve the results in the following fields:
- School nutrition operations
- Education related to healthy eating
- Physical education lessons (“Plan of Action for the Prevention of Obesity” 6)
- Consultations with the school psychologist
- Work and competence of school nurses
It is quite difficult to deny that the role of school nutrition programs in childhood obesity prevention cannot be overstated. It often happens that children are unable to control themselves when they are provided with an opportunity to choose anything they want for a meal or snack, and this is why menus used in many schools in the region should be reconsidered. To provide children with healthier food at school, it is necessary to implement the following strategies:
- Significantly reduce the amount of sugar, hydrogenated fats, and butter used to cook and prepare food
- Ensure that no flavor intensifiers are used during cooking food for students
- Provide school headmasters with a list of products that should not be used to cook food for school students at all
- Define maximum calorie levels for school meals based on the needs of children belonging to specific age groups
- Ensure that students have enough time to make a choice and have a meal or snack by providing them with a menu for the food available at school canteen or cafeteria (“Obesity prevention strategies” par. 2)
- Avoid providing students with sweet beverages that may increase appetite and cause overeating
As for the second area represented by health education at schools and a wide range of problems associated with it, school administrators are supposed to implement the following measures:
- Provide teachers with important knowledge allowing them to give students recommendations related to healthy eating when it is necessary
- Invite school nurses to give lessons devoted to principles of healthy eating, the impact that fast food has on growing organisms, and challenges that obese people have to face every day
- Design and distribute special booklets for parents containing information on childhood obesity rates, products that children should and should not consume, and signs that help parents to understand that weight gain of their children is abnormal
- Encourage teachers to teach classes devoted to obesity, the negative impact that it has on different body systems, and associated diseases.
Apart from that, it is necessary to pay increased attention to physical education lessons and implement the following measures:
- Provide children with an opportunity to choose from a wide range of physical activities such as active games
- Develop a special training program for obese children that will provide them with an opportunity to exercise without being laughed at and experiencing excessive fatigue
- Provide overweight and obese children with information on exercises helping to lose weight
Another area that needs to be paid attention to is the knowledge level of psychologists working at schools. To improve it and encourage these specialists to contribute to decreasing obesity at schools, it is necessary to implement the following measures:
- Develop a special education program for school psychologists related to psychological characteristics of obese children and specific issues that they may have
- Encourage psychologists to provide children with weight problems with special support; make them able to work with psychological reasons of obesity such as anxiety and binge eating disorder
In the end, it is necessary to implement the following measures related to the work of school nurses:
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- Develop a new education program for school nurses touching upon such topics as reasons of obesity and children, health consequences of obesity and other diseases associated with it, including psychological disorders such as depression and changes in behavior
- Ensure that school health professionals (dietitian) are aware of practices that may be used to evaluate the level of physical activity of students, their diet, and their mental condition
- Encourage school health professionals (dietitian) to give recommendations to obese and overweight children paying attention to such components as increased water consumption, a limited amount of fat and sugar, and at least one hour of physical activity every day
As can be seen from the points stated, the proposed plan touches upon different areas of the life of school students. In the end, a thorough and coherent implementation of the measures listed above is supposed to decrease the number of children who are obese or overweight by 2019. Nevertheless, parents or caregivers of students are supposed to provide school health professionals and teachers with assistance and help their children to follow the rules recommended by school health professionals.
According to the initial plan, the changes in all spheres will have to be implemented simultaneously:
- Project affirmation – June 2017
- Preparation of new guidance papers for homeroom teachers, physical education teachers, school nurses, and psychologists – July-August 2017
- Analysis of the situation with obesity in 100 schools chosen – August 2017
- Prevention strategies implementation – September-October 2017
- Performance analysis – May 2018
- Strategies adjustment (if necessary) – June 2018
- Performance analysis – September 2018
- Final evaluation – December 2018
Performance Indicators/ Resources
To evaluate the success level of the program, it is planned to conduct two or three surveys for children and their parents to track changes in children’s assumptions and health conditions. In the end, data on obesity among school students retrieved in August 2017 and December 2018 will be compared.
The necessary resources include government funding, access to students’ health data, and the assistance of specialists in developmental psychology and physical education.
A comprehensive childhood obesity prevention strategy will incorporate aspects of each of the key components, such that the range of interventions includes (12):
- A mixture of “top-down” and community-based actions in plans and programs.
- A mixture of policy instruments, including legislative and financial tools, to ensure availability and affordability of healthy foods and physical activity opportunities.
- The integration of policies for childhood obesity prevention into existing structures as a measure to ensure the sustainability of action.
- Interventions across a range of settings, including early childcare settings, schools, and community organizations.
- The establishment of cross-sectoral platforms and a multispectral approach to childhood obesity prevention
“National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness.” Surgeon General, n.d., Web.
“Obesity Prevention Strategies.” School of Public Health, n.d., Web.
“Obesity Rates & Trends Overview.” State of Obesity, n.d., Web.
“Population-Based Approaches to Childhood Obesity Prevention.” Bing, n.d.., Web.
Wechsler, Howell, et al. The Role of Schools in Preventing Childhood Obesity, The State Education Standard, 2004.
World Health Organization. Plan of Action for the Prevention of Obesity in Children and Adolescents, WHO Press, 2014
World Health Organization. Population-Based Approaches to Childhood Obesity Prevention. WHO Press, 2012.