Archive for August, 2010

Physical Education and Parent Involvement

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Parents play a vital role in the health of their children and can strongly influence the choices they make at school. Making good choices regarding physical activity and nutritious food leads to improved student health — and healthier students are better learners. So encourage the parents of your students to play an active role in supporting a healthy school environment.

What can parents and families do? Here are a few ideas:

Provide Opportunities for Activity
  • Enroll their children in after school sports, classes or recreational activities
  • Expose them to a variety of physical activities
  • Identify ways to be active around your home or neighborhood
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
  • Provide healthy snacks
  • Prepare meals with food from all of the food groups
  • Cook with your children
Be a Role Model
  • Be active regularly — and invite your child to join you
  • Reduce your own television and computer time
  • Cook more and eat out less
Monitor Screen Time
  • Limit the time spent each day using computers, video games and television
  • Avoid eating in front of the television
  • Provide alternate activities for children to enjoy
Advocate for a Healthier School
  • Daily physical education taught by qualified, credentialed physical educators — hopefully SPARK trained!
  • Healthier school lunches in all school environments (cafeteria, a la carte line, student body sales, etc.)
  • Using non-food related items for fundraisers and rewards

SPARK on the Move

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The First Lady’s Let’s Move! program strives to increase opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and create new opportunities for families to be moving together. The Lets Move! website has posted the following:

  • Active Families: Building in a few minutes of activity periodically during the day keeps energy flowing.
  • Active Schools: A variety of opportunities are available for schools to add more physical activity into the school day including: additional physical education classes, before and after school programs, recess, and opening school facilities for student and family recreation in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Active Communities: Mayors and community leaders can promote physical fitness by working to increase safe routes for kids to walk and ride to school, parks, playgrounds and community centers, and sports and fitness programs.

What is SPARK doing to support this initiative?

With SPARK’s newest partner, American Diabetes Association, we can promote physical activity by working to increase PA, safe routes for kids to walk and ride as well AND raise money for Diabetes prevention! Why not organize a Walk for Diabetes and invite school (Active Schools), parents (Active Families), community members (Active Communities)! With this one event you can support awareness and physical activity. You can start by visiting this link

But there is more! We propose you host a Walk for Diabetes before September 17, 2010 and post your event with pictures to! This will register you to win $10,000 for SPARK equipment, Curriculum and Training for your school!

-Kymm Ballard

Partnership Development Specialist


Coordinated School Health- Motivation for Change

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

SPARK recently completed a 2-year research study in Louisville, KY for our Coordinated School Health Initiative. Coordinated School Health is an approach to school health that improves students’ health and their capacity to learn through the support of families, schools, and communities working together.

The SPARK research study was designed to pilot our programs and research their effectiveness with elementary schools. Intervention schools were provided curriculum, equipment, and materials in addition to staff development to implement the programs. The desired outcomes of the project were to increase student physical activity levels, health knowledge and improve health behaviors. For teachers and staff the focus was to increase the quality and quantity of nutrition, health and physical education levels as well as improving their own health.

Although the results of the research project won’t be released until this fall, one of the intervention schools has used this opportunity as a springboard to making some significant additions to their school. Locust Grove Elementary has recently partnered with two local hospitals to fund a full-time nutrition education teacher and provide a weekly class for all K-5 students. In addition to adding a nutrition component to their curriculum, they have created a Minds in Motion Lab for physical activity where students will spend 10 minutes a day going through different stations to improve their coordination, motor skill development, balance, and rhythm. The goal of this program is to increase the quantity of physical activity as well as to prepare the brain for learning. Locust Grove also has several policies now in place to support the healthy school environment. The two most significant policies state that all teachers must provide 20 minutes of physical activity every day, and food is not allowed in classrooms for classroom celebrations or to be used as a reward for students.

Making these types of changes requires a commitment not only from the administration to pass the policies and fund the programs, but from the school staff to implement the policies and from the parents to support the changes. Would you like to improve your school environment using the Coordinated School Health Model? Give us a call at SPARK to find out where to start!

-Jeff Mushkin
Project Specialist/Trainer

Child Obesity Research Studies and Facts

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

In February of this year, First Lady Michelle Obama presented her ambitious Let’s Move campaign to battle the terrifying childhood obesity epidemic. Lady Obama was inspired not only from her family and children’s lifestyle, but also by some startling obesity statistics that have been gathered by medical researchers over the past thirty years.

A child is considered obese if their BMI (Body Mass Index) is 30 or higher, and this BMI level in anyone, especially children has the potential to cause very severe health issues. Recent studies using DEXA scanning devices show that this number is probably much higher than originally thought. There is no better time to solve the obesity issues among America’s children, and the adults of every generation.

  • Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. In 1980, the obesity rate of 6-11 year olds was 6.5%, in 2008 had tripled to 19.6%. For toddlers and preschoolers aged 2-5, the obesity levels have risen from 5% to 12.4% in the same amount of time.

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  • If both parents are overweight, a child’s likelihood of being overweight is increased by 60-80%. The chance of an obese child growing into an obese adult is about 70%. Children perceive the number one immediate issue of being overweight is social discrimination, as reported by overweight children. This has the ability to prevent them from exercising with other children, which leads to antisocial and depressive tendencies, as well as lifetime psychological effects.
  • There are a number of serious health conditions that arise from obesity, especially when a person’s joints and arteries are being challenged at such a young age.  Some of the main illnesses that become incredibly more likely to occur due to childhood obesity include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, gall bladder disease and asthma.

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  1. Heart Disease: One of the biggest killers in America today, heart disease prevention is very important in early life. Obese children that grow to obese adults carry the increased risks of heart disease with them.
  2. Type 2 Diabetes: Also known as adult-onset diabetes, the two main causes of this disease are related to an unhealthy lifestyle: lack of physical exercise, and obesity. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 does not generally have a genetic cause.
  3. Arthritis: While most arthritic patients are older, obese children can develop this disorder due to excessive weight and pressure on growing joints and bones.
  4. Asthma: Obesity often affects lung capacity, which can create dangerous and disconcerting asthma attacks.
  • The cost of obesity is high. Not only are there lifelong health issues to consider, but those who are obese pay an average 30% more in health costs, and 77% more in medication costs. It requires more foods that are high in “empty” calories to provide energy, and larger meals in general are much more expensive.

Reasons Behind the Numbers

Many studies on current lifestyles have drawn a number of conclusions. It is generally accepted that a combination of poor lifestyle choices has greatly contributed to these disturbing numbers.

  1. Kids are eating more empty calories than ever before. Rather than healthy fruits and veggies and nutritious snacks and lunches, parents are serving processed snacks and various forms of high fructose corn syrup. Schools do not generally provide healthy food options, and kids with meal assistance plans have no choice but to consume unhealthy food items. Even kids with options often have an array of processed snacks, fried foods, sweets and sodas to purchase, and very few healthy options.
  2. Forms of entertainment have drastically changed. Just a few decades ago, kids spent the majority of their time playing outside with other kids from their neighborhood, or with their siblings in the backyard. Now they spend their time playing video games, watching television, and sitting in front of their computers.
  3. Physical education budgets in many school districts have taken huge hits. Programs such as the No Child Left Behind Act have begun to engulf exercise and activity time such as PE and recess. Low budgets have led to fewer teachers and less equipment for gym class and after school physical activities. Many schools now have to charge nominal fees for the students to participate in school sports. The less fortunate cannot afford these fees and are forced to opt out. The old strenuous and fun PE games for adolescents are being replaced by less-stimulating games that do not require the active involvement of all participants.
  4. Today’s children spend much more time in cars than ever before. They are much less likely to walk to school, the bus stop, or the park. They don’t bike a few miles to get to the pool in the summer, and they don’t jog to the local ballpark. Parents no longer walk their kids to their friends’ houses anymore, but rather drive them a few blocks away due to time constraints or safety reasons.


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