Nutrition, Physical Education And Obesity In Our Schools: Is There A Connection?
1) Problem Statement
Statistics show that majority of American youth live sedentary lifestyles yet this can cause both health and learning problems in schools. Schools are at a unique position to solve the obesity problem because this is where students spend most of their time; their level of physical activity through physical education is determined through these schools and so are nutritional lifestyles. There is a need to determine what the link between these three aspects is i.e. physical education, nutrition and obesity in schools in order to understand what the root cause of obesity is.
The purpose of this study is to determine the link between physical activity, nutritional intake and obesity in schools. In other words, the study will attempt to determine whether nutritional intakes in schools could be causing childhood obesity and also whether physical activity is a contributory factor towards obesity in schools. In other words, there will be two phases in this research; the first is establishing a link between physical activity and obesity in schools and the second will be establishing a link between nutritional intakes and obesity in schools. The variable parameters will be nutritional intake and physical inactivity and obesity will be the non variable factor. All the latter issues will be examined within a school context. (Jefferies, 2007)
Obesity levels in the study will be determined by measuring Body mass Index of the children chosen for study. It should be noted that when the latter measurements exceed ninety five percent, then those children fall within the category of obesity or they can also be called overweight. Physical activity can be determined by looking at fitness levels. Here standard fitness tests will be administered in which one’s aerobic capacity will be ascertained and so will their recovery tests. Nutritional information will be analyzed by looking at a number of issues that range from the content of the food to the amount of time allocated to it and the number of students who actually eat that school food.
At the end of the study, the research should be able to determine what the contributory levels of nutritional and physical activity in schools are towards causing obesity. In other words, the research will be able to verify whether school programs play a contributory role to causing obesity amongst children. (Alderman, 2004)
2) Description of the Community
The community chosen for study is the high school environment. This will encompass a series of individuals from various social and economic backgrounds since the schools chosen for analysis will be public schools. These schools will be located in the State of California. The reason why this particular area was chosen for study was that California is rich in a number of public schools and it is highly multiracial thus representing a larger portion of the entire country demographic.
Most public schools contain a mixture of individuals from different social economic backgrounds but there are some that are located in rich neighborhoods and thus considered wealthy while others are located in poorer locations. Since five schools will be utilized for this study, then care will be taken to represent all sides of the divide. Two schools will represent low income backgrounds, two schools will come from middle income households while one school will represent wealthy households.
3) Description of work settings
The three schools chosen for study will all be campuses. They will have students in the expected high school ages. Additionally, the faculties that will be chosen will also represent diversity in composition. Since the study revolves around nutritional and physical activity dimensions, then the opinions of members of staff will be sought. Some of the participants that will take part here include;
- Physical education teachers
- Cafeteria staff
- Nutrition teachers
- Faculty directors
- Food service coordinators
The basis for selecting these schools will be through the Economic Reference Groups which is normally utilized by the Board of Education. (NH Healthy Schools Coalition, 2007)
4) Writer’s role
The primary role of the writer will be to collect information from the chosen schools about the research question. In this regard, information about how much time students dedicate to their nutrition will be collected. Also, information about the school lunch program will be sought, cafeteria menus will be examined and there will also be keen emphasis on the role that vending machines and other low nutritional foods play in student’s lives. Physical education and physical activity information will be sought from the parties chosen for interview.
Additionally, the measurements to be conducted will be done by some assistants who have specialized in the area.
The writer is well equipped for such a task owing to the fact that he is in the process of obtaining a university degree. Also, the writer has taken part in a number of committee meetings within the school arena including his faculty committee. In this position, he was responsible for compiling reports and making major decisions within the group. Consequently, the writer is in a good position to carry out his respective duties and obligations in the study.
Study of the problem
1) Problem description
There is a need to understand what is going currently within the school environment. This is largely because obesity is still a prevalent problem among adolescents today yet most people have still not been able to understand how the school setting can contribute towards solving this issue.
2) Problem documentation
Statistics revealed through the Surgeon General Research group showed that schools are key settings in which prevention or reduction of obesity can be done. However, implementation of these recommendations is yet to be done in most schools. Most of them are yet to understand the influence that the have on children’s eating habits. This is especially the case because the influences go beyond the classroom. A research conducted by the EHHI found that most unhealthy food items such as cupcakes, sweets, cakes and sweet bread are introduced to children through schools. Examples here include vending machines, food based rewards, fund raisers and birthday parties. This means that there must be a correlation between these unhealthy eating habits and occurrence of obesity. (NH Healthy Schools Coalition, 2007)
Besides the latter matter, oncologists at Greenwhich hospital have shown that there is indeed a serious risk between childhood obesity and a number of health complications. In 1994, the latter researchers showed that there is a ten fold risk of getting diabetes 2 for children with obesity or those who are overweight.
3) Literature review
In studies to find out eating habits in schools within the country, it had been found that a substantial number of schools i.e. eighty percent of them offered students other opportunities for eating outside their normal cafeteria time. On top of that, it was also found that a similar percentage offered vending machines to students. (Taras, 2008)
Public Health officials such as the Connecticut Public Health Commissioner have asserted that children should not be offered any extra foods such as candy or schools within school hours. Besides this, the nutritional levels offered to students should be monitored by education coordinators. Given such strong assertions, then it implies that schools may loose out on a lot if they continue engaging in such complacent behavior when it comes to food.
A number of researches have been done with regard to the condition of physical education in most schools. While the national policy on the matter is rather straight forward, implementation of these recommendations is another issue altogether. First of all, most schools have failed to realize that sound health cannot be realized without physical education. For instance, time allocated to physical activities is quite short throughout the year. National standards require that there should be a minimum of twenty minutes allocated o each class for physical education made up of aerobic activity. Also, children are supposed to be given daily recess in which they engage in physical activity. However, this has not yet occurred.
Other researches have shown that for all the four years that students spend in high school, only a total of two semesters are dedicated to physical education. There is also a serious lack of consistency in most of these institutions because time and time again, one might find that a certain period has been characterized by intense physical activity yet another period has had nothing of the sort.
Brownwell, K. (2002) in his book “Food fight” by Yale University Press, the latter author claims that the well being and health of American students is in great danger because of the food environment in most of these institutions and also because of the lack of activity. He challenged most schools to think about how they can reverse that trend.
A number of child nutritionists have asserted that the best way for children to stay healthy is by doing the latter two things;
- Eating right
- Doing more
In their argument, these nutritionists claim that the deteriorating cases of obesity among American youth have been brought on by poor nutritional levels and also by failing to engage in an active life that would burn the fat and reduce occurrence of such conditions. It may be a fact that children respond differently to food depending on their genetic make up, however, the rate upon which children loose or gain weight may depend on the latter factors.
Additionally, it has been asserted by a number of experts that the idea of physical education in most schools needs to be re-conceptualized. This implies that a nationwide agenda on tackling obesity needs to adopted and the best way to achieve this is through schools. In order to reverse bad student health, there may be a need to change the way in which people view physical education and nutrition. While this may not be something that can occur overnight, there is a need to change the way this matter is viewed through the institution of certain procedures that can go a long way in eliminating some of these wrongs.
4) Causative analysis
Obesity within the country can be caused by a number of reasons. Some of them include complacency on the part of legislators who fail to enact laws that will guarantee implementation of sound school regulation on nutrition and physical education. Other reasons why obesity could be on the rise could be the lack awareness by education stakeholders on just how serious this issue is or how important the school setting is when it comes to encouraging poor habits. In other scenarios, schools themselves may not know exactly which areas they have to deal with in order to curb childhood obesity. Certain schools may offer minima opportunity for living healthy lifestyles. Lastly, obesity in schools may be growing because of the fact that poor eating habits are learned from birth and trying to change them after students have already grown may be difficult. (Taras, 2008)
This particular study will focus on some of the areas that need to be addressed by schools. In other words, the study will attempt to reveal what school habits are responsible for the growing problem of obesity in schools. This is why the research will dwell on physical education and poor nutrition.
Outcomes and evaluation
1) Goals and expectations
The goal of this study is to show that there is a relationship between physical education activities in schools and prevalence of obesity and also to show that there is a link between nutritional intakes in schools and prevalence of obesity.
2) Expected outcomes
At the end of this research, it is expected that most schools will recognize the role that they can play towards minimizing obesity among children. After showing such a relationship, it is likely that the schools may be motivated to action by implementing some of the issues put out in the report. (Alderman, 2004)
3) Measurement of outcomes
The outcomes shall be measured though both qualitative and quantitative methods. Questionnaires will be issued to cafeteria attendants, school heads, students, sports instructors and other stakeholders. Personal interviews will be done among school administrators to see whether they understand some of the issues under consideration.
4) Analysis of results
Results will be analyzed statistically through the use of pie charts and bar charts. Questionnaire solutions will be clustered and then summarized through pie charts. On the other hand, interviews will be analyzed through bar charts so as to ascertain that all ideas have been taken into consideration. The overall goal will be to prove a connection between the three components i.e. physical education, obesity and nutrition. Schools will be the targets of these results and they will be given the responses.
1) Restatement of the problem
Obesity in schools is major challenge, it is essential to find out whether there is a link between physical education and nutritional intake in schools so as to address the problem.
Additionally, statistics show that that there are a number of schools that still pay very little attention to physical exercise and physical education. It has been shown that in most high schools, students receive close to a third or less of their physical exercise. There is a need to find out whether this is related to the prevalence of obesity in schools and if so, the extent of this relationship needs also to be examined.
The latter issue is particularly alarming owing to the fact that most high schools receive about a third of the time nationally recommended of physical education while children in lower schools receive less time than is necessary. Most schools schedule regular physical exercises at any one time. However, it is often common to find that very few schools actually reinforce those rules. This indicates that there is serious problem facing children in terms of obesity. (Taras, 2008)
3) Calendar plan
The first week will be dedicated to identification of specific schools and sending application letters to carry out the research. The second week will be dedicated to questionnaire preparation and interview preparation with particular emphasis given to logistical issues like transport and printing.
The third week will be dedicated to confirmation with specific research schools and ensuring that they have adhered to the agreed upon issues.
Week four will largely dwell on conducting the research. Students will be interviewed, observations will be done. Cafeteria attendants will be consulted, sports teachers will be interviewed and so will school administrators. Week five will entail compiling answers from the interviews to come up with similar responses. Week six and seven will involve a thorough data analysis in which the responses will be placed into clusters and the last three weeks will be dedicated towards compiling the report.
Brownwell, K. (2002): Food fight; Yale University Press
Alderman, N. (2004): The State of Nutrition Physical Activity in our Schools; Environment and Human Health Inc. Report
Jefferies, S. (2007): Solving the Obesity Crisis; University of Illinois PACE conference, 12, 35
TASN (2006): Position of the Texas Association for School Nutrition: Obesity Epidemic, retrieved from http://www.tasn.net/files/Position of the Texas Association for School Nutrition- Obesity Epidemic.pdf. Accessed on 1st February
NH Healthy Schools Coalition (2007): Childhood Obesity: Now is the time to address this epidemic retrieved from http://www.nh.gov/gcpah/documents/childhoodobesity.pdf Accessed on 1st February