August 14, 2010

What Can Be Done About Childhood Obesity?

The Twitter Exercise and Motivation Team is a fantastic resource that combines a dedicated blog and the clever use of the hashtag #temt to motivate hundreds of tweeps into getting fit and living healthier lives! I have been encouraged by the collaboration and kind words of support from team members, inspiring blogs, links to useful resources, and insightful tips such as this tweet from @cybraryman1: "Keep motivated to exercise by setting realistic goals & keeping an exercise journal #temt Make time to exercise in your busy schedules". BTW, you can keep track of the #temt exchange and some interesting statistics at the What Hashtag address: .

As I read another of many disheartening articles on obesity, I thought how educators in the TEMT team could extend its collaborative model by taking steps to reduce childhood obesity through programs in schools. There is an abundance of information on obesity. For example, a Google exact search for "Obesity in America" for the past week brought up 14,300 results. The most significant findings on adult obesity were recently reported by the CDC. In brief the number of obese adults living in the United States increased by 2.4 millions in just two years (2007 to 2009) and in nine states more than 30% are obese. Flip through the pages of this Slideshare slideshow to see how the trend rapidly increased the past 25 years and in particular the increase from 5 to 9 states with rates greater than 30% for the past reporting year (2008 - 2009). The original PowerPoint is located at the CDC U.S. Obesity Trends page.
Obesity trends 2009
The news is even grimmer for children as described on the page Childhood Overweight and Obesity. All statistics stand out but perhaps this one is the most telling: "one study found that approximately 80% of children who were overweight at aged 10-15 years were obese adults at age 25 years".

So as educators and collaborators what can we do? What have some of us already accomplished in our schools or communities? One start is to share resources, ideas on how to get started, and stories of success (present or pending). I thought about steps such as having students create a healthy eating wiki as part of a class or school project. Students could learn much from such a project: collaboration to build something really useful that they can take pride and ownership in, the value of nutrition, comparing good and bad calories, family history (recipes), skills in technology (learning how to contribute to a Wiki, add comments, insert links and photos), and so on.

There is a lot of movement in taking steps to reduce the prevalence of obesity, which is encouraging. At the same time the trend is still upward and reversing it will take considerable patience and persistence. The section What Can Be Done lists educational resources for community, schools, and self: food and nutrition, physical activity, technology, success stories, and activities that provide opportunities to raise student awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and empower them to to integrate physical activity as a way of life.



  1. Another great post Joe :) One of the things that I used in my health class that really resonated with students was watching "Shaq's Big Challenge". It was a great show that not only dealt with childhood obesity and what the kids that were dealing with it had to go through physically, but it also talked about the mental barriers that many of them had face.

    The students in my class learned a lot about obesity, healthy eating and exercise, while also learning to accept people how they are. As a project that was initiated class, students came up with ways that they could be healthier and things that they could do as a school. What was powerful about this was that students took ownership which ultimately leads them to better life habits, as opposed to imposing what I thought was beneficial to their practice.

    Thanks again for such a comprehensive post and thoughts.

    (Just so you know, this show was so good that I was able to overcome that Shaq played for the Heat at the time, and he had just left the Lakers)

  2. Hi George,

    Thank you for bringing to my attention "Shaq's Big Challenge", which exemplifies what a celebrity can accomplish when they truly care about making a difference. I l look forward to watching the episodes on Hulu:

    I wonder how many schools are using the show as a resource in their classes? You rightly point out the power of student ownership in learning, which applies to their studies and healthy living. Linking the body to the brain, which is the title of this interesting Edutopia article:

    (I will be rooting for Shaq this season except when he plays for the Lakers!)



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