Have you ever faced a big whopping problem? Have you ever felt overwhelmed at the daunting task of trying to fix the problem? We are all facing such a challenge considering the national childhood obesity epidemic in which one out of three children is obese. In my state (Louisiana) alone, a whopping 16 percent of teenagers are obese with body-mass index (BMI) score above the 95th percentile. Now THAT is a problem.
As a school nurse, I recognize that school is a great place for students to be physically active. I also recognize that well-nourished students behave and learn better. Making nutrient rich foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat milk more readily available is a great start to tackling childhood obesity. That is why I support Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60). This program provides schools with the resources and support needed to encourage students to eat nutrient-rich foods and be active for 60 minutes a day, all at no cost to schools.
Unlike infants and young children, adolescents have some control over their environment. Our Bonnabel High School’s Student Wellness Council has taken the lead in addressing the obesity epidemic by promoting a healthy school environment. As change agents, members of the Student Wellness Council have:
- Eliminated sugary drinks from concession stands.
- Started an after school health and fitness club run by medical students. Seminar topics include calculating one’s body/mass index (BMI) and the effects of an unhealthy BMI.
- Hosted “Movin’ Mondays” with music, dancing, hula hooping and other activities during lunch.
- Made healthy strawberry yogurt smoothies for fundraisers.
- Maintained a vegetable garden and incorporated those vegetables into homegrown recipes in ProStart classes.
- Promoted health and fitness through annual Wellness Week activities.
When you get ready to attack the big whopping problem of adolescent obesity, remember the students are the ones who will really make the changes necessary. Of course, they need to be educated on the health problems associated with obesity, but more importantly, they need to be listened to. We can help adolescents become the agents of change.