In Flagstaff, Arizona, public schools have taken an aggressive approach to reducing childhood obesity. “Beginning this fall the district will measure and weigh elementary-school children and send letters to parents whose children are overweight or heading that way.” (Source: Arizona Daily Star) The district estimates that about half of their elementary school students will fall into this category.
Recent research has found a potential link between an increase in children’s eating disorders and how adults communicate with children about obesity. Study author Dr. David Rosen says “that many of his young patients trace the beginnings of their disordered eating to being told by a physician to lose a few pounds.” Yet the letters to overweight children in Flagstaff will urge parents to visit a physician with their children to talk about nutrition and weight loss. So will these letters actually help the children?
An editorial in the Arizona Daily Star suggests the school-based child weighing and letter notification project should be extended throughout the state. Wouldn’t it be better to use the schools as forums for discussing healthier food and lifestyle choices so parents and children can learn together in the context of their own communities, rather than singling out and perhaps embarrassing and humiliating children and their parents? Some parents may not appreciate the style of communication and may reject information in the letters. It seems more sensitive and less offensive to hold town hall style meetings that include everyone rather than identifying offenders or problem children because of possible repercussions to those children from their peers, and the potential stress, which might actually induce more overeating.
An estimated 31 percent of Arizona’s children between 10 and 17 are obese. (Source: Arizona Daily Star) In March it was reported Pima County, Arizona had received a $16 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control for obesity reduction and prevention. Reducing obesity in the county is a collaborative effort involving the University of Arizona, the Pima County Health Department and local organizations such as schools. (You can read about the obesity reduction activities on the Centers for Disease Control website.) Most of the measures appear to be about making physical activities easier, and sensible things like a public education campaign about nutrition and hiring wellness educators. Another practical measure will be using fresh vending machines, in place of those dispensing junk food. (Source: collegehealthyvending.com)
Image Credit: Walter Siegmund