The Get Movin Crew is a Michigan based company and this blog post is all about the childhood obesity epidemic within the state of great lakes and (unfortunately) a great number of kids leading unhealthy lifestyles. But this blog post is also to encourage you to take a stand and lend a hand with the obesity epidemic in your local community, wherever that may be.
- Nearly one in three children in Michigan are overweight or obese (This would fill Ford Field to full capacity almost 7 times)
- In the past 35 years obesity in Michigan children aged 6 to 11 has increased almost five-fold.
- Current Obesity Rate for 10-17 yr olds: 14.8%
- Projected cases of diabetes in 2030 at current pace: 1,382,370
- Projected cases of hypertension in 2030 at current pace: 2,612,251
- Projected cases of heart disease in 2030: 2,858,267
- Projected cases of obesity-related cancer in 2030: 395,245
What We’re Doing Right
From coalitions dedicated to reducing childhood obesity in Michigan to national nutritional education programs like “Choose My Plate,” it is clear that the US is coming together to battle this epidemic. Michiganders might be fighting an uphill battle, but at least we’re fighting. The following are ways in which we are making headway and much-needed reminders that turning the tide on childhood obesity is within our reach.
What’s a great antithesis to the fast food joints dotting every corner and lighting up every freeway exit? How about bringing freshly grown farm food right to the table?
The Michigan Farm-to-School Programs include “efforts to offer local foods in school cafeterias, school garden programs, fundraisers that take advantage of local products, farmer visits to school classrooms and cafeterias, and field trips to nearby farms.” (mifarmtoschool.msu.edu)
These intitiaves increase consumption of fruits & vegetables, plus they can actually transform childhood eating habits and help students choose healthy food at lunch.
Physical Education Requirements
As we all know, a child’s brain is like a sponge and having quality, consistent physical education develops adults who understand the importance of cardio and the value of a pair of dumbbells.
Currently, Michigan requires that all children, from Pre-K to 12th grade, participate in physical education classes each school day. These classes include instruction, assessment and the opportunity for each child to put to practice what he or she has learned. According to the Michigan Department of Education, “Physical education helps students develop the knowledge, fitness levels, motor skills, and personal and social skills to obtain the ultimate goal of a lifetime of physical activity and health.”
Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs
In 2012 ten public school areas & YMCA organizations throughout Michigan were chosen to receive state funding for Obesity Prevention Programs. The non-profit sector has also taken off with creative ways to raise money and awareness for the cause of fighting obesity throughout Michigan and the US. Plus, we heard there’s an awesome healthy fundraising company teaming up with schools and introducing kids to fun ways to stay active (wink, wink).
Health Education Requirements
Along with physical education, students are required to attend classes about health & nutrition, plus issues related directly to obesity. Health education in Michigan is varied depending on grade, so a 1st grader isn’t trying to memorize all the essential nutrients, and the curriculum is designed for different levels of development.
Where We Need to Improve
Of course, for all the progress we’ve made, it is a long road to travel until we see the real, lasting fruits of our labor. The real test will be to see our kids grow up to be healthy adults and to avoid the obesity-caused diseases by 2030. Here are areas in which we can improve on a state-level, but as parents, teachers, and influencers, we can all make a difference by encouraging healthy behavior to the little ones in our lives.
Standards & Restrictions on Competitive Foods in Schools
“Competitive Foods” mean any food or beverage that is not a part of the USDA School Meals Program. Meaning, the greasy cheese sticks in the à la carte lines, the soda sold in vending machines, the candy picked up at the school store and any cakes, cookies or doughnuts sold in bake sales.
As of now, Michigan has no restrictions or standards for these types of foods and students are able to load up on sugar and carbs throughout the day, even if their school is serving healthier lunches.
Encourage More Water Intake
Water fountains in schools have a reputation of being many things: few & far between, broken, tasting like metal, etc. To encourage more water intake during the school day, it is important that there are enough functioning water fountains in the school to supply all of the students (not just those happening to walk down the hall by the gym).
Also, if cups are available by the water fountains, it encourages students to take water from the fountain and drinking it during classes. Learn more about water access in schools.
List Calorie Content Information on Menus
Restaurants can easily lead to splurges both in budget and in calorie intake. Even meals that sound healthy can contain unknown amounts of fatty carbs, calories, & sugar. Thus, there is a push to require certain chain restuarants & retail food establishments to list calorie content information on their menus. This way, parents can make informed decisions about what their kids are eating.
Another idea circulating in politics is to have a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The hope is that this will discourage people to buy cheap, sugary sodas and, instead, purchase more wate & healthy, natural drinks like juice or low-fat milk.
Set Standards for Type and Time Students Participate in Physical Activity
Kids need to get 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and this isn’t always ensured in gym class. Time needs to be used to teach in physical education classes, and setting standards for physical activity (sports, cardio, games) makes sure that one-hour goal is met. Also, creating a state-wide standard may make sure that kids are getting a variety of exercise, from aerobics to muscle strengthening. As you can see from the Physical Activity Pyramid, physical education creates a foundation for physical activity, but it does not replace it altogether.
Health Assessments & Screenings
A recent study found that 31% of parents of obese or overweight children “perceived their child’s health to be “excellent” or “very good” and 28% didn’t perceive their child’s weight to be a health problem.” With avalaible (or even mandatory) health assessments & screenings, such as a BMI (Body Mass Index), parents, schools & communities can make more informed decisions when it comes to parenting individual kids and providing obesity-prevention programs for students. If you’re interested in checking your child’s BMI, check out the CDC’s BMI Percentile Calculator for kids & teens.
Childhood obesity is a national issue, but we can each be part of the solution on a local level.
If you would like to team up with us to bring healthy fundraising to your school, give us a shout! If you want to continue the discussion on what Michigan is doing right and ways we can do even better, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to us on Facebook.
For more information on the USDA’s My Plate program, take a look at this comprehensive resource from Katom.Add to favorite