- advertisement -

Preventing Childhood Obesity: An Open Letter to the US Congress

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Ellen, Feb 25, 2006.

  1. Ellen

    Ellen Senior Member

    Oct 22, 2005

    Webcast Video Editorials
    Preventing Childhood Obesity: An Open Letter to the US Congress

    Posted 02/17/2006
    [​IMG] Michael Dansinger, MD, MS

    American children may be the first generation to have shorter life spans than their parents. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in recent decades,[1] due largely to an environment that has become increasingly saturated with unhealthy, but highly marketed, food products.[2] Obese children are now developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease at an alarming rate,[3] and we cannot expect this to improve unless we make substantial environmental changes.
    The aggressive and relentless advertisement of nutritionally poor foods to children exploits them and is overwhelming for even the most vigilant parents. Children see 10 food advertisements per hour when they watch TV, mostly for unhealthy foods.[4] In principle, parents can forbid their children to watch TV, but most agree that this approach is too extreme.
    Our children deserve an environment that promotes good health; it's fundamental to our nation's best interest. Parents don't want unhealthy foods marketed to their children,[5] and the only realistic way to stop this is to enact and enforce laws that offset the economic incentives that have made children the easy prey of food companies.
    We need a few courageous legislators to resist the food company lobbies and start the nation thinking about banning food advertising to children. It has been done in Europe and elsewhere and should be done in America, too.[2,6] If future generations of Americans are to be healthy and happy, we must curtail the lax food marketing laws that promote childhood obesity. Let's not turn a blind eye to this crisis!
    That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Michael Dansinger, Obesity Researcher at Tufts-New England Medical Center and Director of the Tufts Popular Diet Trial.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Senior Member

    Oct 22, 2005
    We do have to worry about this with our children too - even if they have type 1 diabetes.


    Eating for Credit

    Published: February 24, 2006
    Berkeley, Calif.
    Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image
    [​IMG] Jim Frazier

    IT'S shocking that because of the rise in Type 2 diabetes experts say that the children we're raising now will probably die younger than their parents — the result of a disease that is largely preventable by diet and exercise. But in public schools these days, children all too often are neither learning to eat well nor to exercise.
    Fifty years ago, we had a preview of today's obesity crisis: a presidential council told us that America's children weren't fit — and we did something about it, at great expense. We built gymnasiums and tracks and playgrounds. We hired and trained teachers. We made physical education part of the curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Students were graded on their performance.
    Universal physical education is a start, and it's a shame that schools have been cutting back on recess and gym. But in a country where nine million children over 6 are obese we need the diet part of the equation, too. It's time for students to start getting credit for eating a good lunch.
    I know from experience that teaching children about food changes their lives. I helped establish a gardening and cooking project in the public schools here in Berkeley called the Edible Schoolyard, and I've come to believe that lunch should be at the center of every school's curriculum.
    Schools should not just serve food; they should teach it in an interactive, hands-on way, as an academic subject. Children's eating habits stay with them for the rest of their lives. The best way to defeat the obesity epidemic is to teach children about food — and thereby prevent them from ever becoming obese.
    The trouble is that the shared family meal is now a rare experience for most youngsters, with only a third of married couples with children reporting regularly having dinner as a family. We have abdicated our responsibility to these children, placing their well-being in the hands of the fast-food industry, whose products — hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries — dominate school lunch programs.
    Not only are our children eating this unhealthy food, they're digesting the values that go with it: the idea that food has to be fast, cheap and easy; that abundance is permanent and effortless; that it doesn't matter where food actually comes from. These values are changing us. As a nation, we need to take back responsibility for the health of not just our children, but also our culture.
    Our program began at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School 10 years ago, with a kitchen classroom and a garden full of fruits, vegetables and herbs. A cafeteria where students, faculty and staff members will eat together every day is under construction, and the Edible Schoolyard has become a model for a district-wide school lunch initiative.
    At King School today, 1,000 children are involved in growing, preparing and sharing fresh food. These food-related activities are woven into the entire curriculum. Math classes measure garden beds. Science classes study drainage and soil erosion. History classes learn about pre-Columbian civilizations while grinding corn.
    We're not forcing them to eat their vegetables; we're teaching them about the botany and history of those vegetables. We're not scaring them with the health consequences of their eating habits; we're engaging them in interactive education that brings them into a new relationship with food. Nothing less will change their behavior.
    We can try to improve diets all we want by making school lunches more nutritious and by getting vending machines out of the hallways, but that gets us only partway there. For example, New York City has just banned whole milk in its public schools. It's a courageous first step, but how can we be sure students will drink healthier milk just because it's offered to them, let alone understand what lifelong nourishment is all about?
    Indeed, it's too often the fresh fruit and salad that gets tossed in the garbage at school cafeterias. Even if they weren't already addicted to salt and sugar, children tend to be wary of unfamiliar foods — and besides, they can always bring packaged junk in for lunch or buy fast food after school. Healthful food that's offered in a "take it or leave it" way is often, well, left.
    But when a healthy lunch is a part of a class that all children have to take, for credit — and when they can follow food from the garden to the kitchen to the table, doing much of the work themselves — something amazing happens. The students want to taste everything. They get lured in by foods that are beautiful, that taste and smell good, that appeal to their senses. When children grow and prepare good, healthy food themselves, they want to eat it, and, what's more, they like this way of learning.
    We need a revolution, a delicious revolution, that will induce children — in a pleasurable way — to think critically about what they eat. The study of food, and school lunch, should become part of the core curriculum for all students from kindergarten through high school. Such a move will take significant investment and the kind of resolve that this country showed a half-century ago. It will be costly, but if we don't pay now, the health care bill later will be astronomical.
    Alice Waters is the owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe and the founder of the Chez Panisse Foundation.
  3. Ellen

    Ellen Senior Member

    Oct 22, 2005
    Selling Junk Food to Toddlers


    Selling Junk Food to Toddlers

    Published: February 23, 2006
    For all the talk about protecting children in America, too many of our youngest are threatened by a steady blast of industrial-strength advertising on children's television. Some ads, like those for toys and games, mostly threaten the family budget. But the commercials hawking sugary treats or empty calories can be more pernicious. Many health professionals now fear that junk-food advertising to toddlers and pre-teenagers is contributing to soaring rates of obesity and diabetes among the young.
    The Institute of Medicine, in a report last December sponsored by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that "current food and beverage marketing practices put children's long-term health at risk." It argued that the onslaught of commercials directed at such very young children can set bad dietary patterns for life. And children under 8 are generally defenseless against sophisticated barrages from the giants in the food industry.
    Parents are the first line of defense, but it's tough to hold the line in the grocery store against the piercing whines of little ones when they spot a sugary treat sponsored by a favorite cartoon character. The government and the food and media industries need to help out.
    The government, however, has barely noticed this problem. The Federal Trade Commission decided last year that the food industry should police itself on marketing low-nutrient foods to increasingly fat children.
    Some companies, like Kraft Foods, appear to have gotten the word. The company has agreed to stop marketing such sweets as Oreos to children under 12. And networks that televise cartoons, including Nickelodeon, are trying to add more advice to the young on how healthy food and outdoor exercise can make you feel good, too.
    But progress has been so slow that the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and two Massachusetts parents have announced plans to sue Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon, and the Kellogg Company. These advocates of healthy food have accused both companies of "unfair and deceptive" junk-food marketing to children under the age of 8. They have argued that high-powered ads aimed at children as young as 2 years old is "creepy and predatory."
    It is not clear that a lawsuit like this can prevail, even in consumer-friendly Massachusetts. But the message should be clear. Americans pride themselves on protections for the young, but they're ignoring an issue that may be as important as car seats. With more than nine million obese youngsters over 6 in this country, it's time to stop encouraging another generation to eat wrong.
  4. bethdou

    bethdou Approved members

    Dec 29, 2005
    Another way to help

    Not only do we need to promote healthy eating and get rid of the advertising and such that encourage kids to sit on their buns and eat garbage, we need to get PE and recess back into schools. In my state, the Dept of Ed has passed quite stringent regulations about what foods can and can't be sold in schools, and what kinds of foods can be served at meals and parties in terms of fat/sugar/caloric content. But at the same time, funding for PE has been drastically cut back and schools are eliminating recess in the name of No Child Left Behind (in order to devote more time to academics). If every kid in the US had at least 30 minutes of PE at least twice a week (daily would be optimum) and at least one recess period to run and play every day, childhood obesity would either decline or slow down. I teach kindergarten, and in a 6 hour school day, my five year olds get 30 minutes of recess, split between morning and lunchtime. That's not a lot of activity for a little kid who is expected to sit and listen and learn for the other 5.5 hours. Kids over 3rd grade don't get recess at all. Oh yeah, we get 20 minutes of PE every 6 school days. WOO HOO.

    There's no denying that TV, video games and DVDs have a lot to do with kids being sedentary, and it's just not safe in most places to let your children run the neighborhood to play the way we did when I was a kid. But if schools (and the legislators who tell us what to do) really want to impact children's health, getting every student who is able up and moving EVERY SINGLE DAY.
    IMHO, anyhow. :)

Share This Page

- advertisement -

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice