Archive for the ‘Child Obesity’ Category

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Friday, September 19th, 2014

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness MonthSeptember is known for back-to-school festivities and the transition into fall, but did you know that it’s also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, initiated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) four years ago, brings awareness and recognition to this devastating epidemic among the American youth in the hopes of ending a very real threat to the future health of millions of American children. Let’s look at some facts and some ways you can get involved.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Facts

We are grateful for this month-long promotion of awareness and action for childhood obesity, but this pressing issue should really take the spotlight all 12 months of the year.

Check out the facts:

  • More than 23 million American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese or overweight.
  • More than 1/3 of American children are at risk for Type 2 diabetes.
  • Other obesity-related risks include heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
  • Childhood obesity is a completely preventable disease!

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month was created to educate and inspire the public to take action against the childhood obesity epidemic.

How to Get Involved

Whether you’re a parent, educator, or part of the community, there’s something you can do to help. Check out these ideas:

  • It all starts at home:
    • Educate yourself about the food and drink you consume. Encourage your own family to become more physically active and to develop better eating habits.
    • Expand at the community level:
      • Host an event where families can engage in fun active activities and learn about both the dangers of childhood obesity and how to prevent it.
      • Post flyers in public areas.
      • Tweet and use Facebook to promote activities and awareness.
      • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper encouraging community leaders to become involved.
      • Volunteer to host a presentation on childhood obesity and ways to prevent it at a local school or community center.
      • Approach community groups like scouts, 4H, boys and girls clubs, churches, and other religious communities about hosting an event, presentation, or activity to spread awareness of childhood obesity.
      • Encourage PSAs on local television and radio.
      • Sponsor ads in local media—newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.
      • Partner with other agencies and organizations to hold a large, free to the public event.
      • Get involved with the government
        • Lobby your state legislature, surgeon general, school boards, governor, other state leaders, and even the First Lady/First Gentleman to host events, presentations, activities, and to make childhood health a priority.
        • Lobby for better, healthier school lunch and snack programs.
        • Petition for better funding for physical education programs in schools, improved community recreational facilities, and public health programs to end obesity at all ages.
        • Lobby for better and more funding for state parks and museums to encourage families to become more active.
        • Lobby for changes in state-funded food aid programs to eliminate access to processed foods, foods high in sugar and fat, and soft drinks.

Childhood Obesity need not rob millions of Americans of good health and good living. It can be stopped. It can be reversed. But it will take interested individuals to take action and become involved. The future of our country is at stake. The children of America need you, and while Childhood Obesity Awareness only lasts through September, it is a cause we all need to rally behind every month of the year.

Childhood Obesity Crisis: An Update

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Childhood Obesity Crisis: An Update

The Continuing High Cost of Doing Nothing

By Dr. Stan Bassin

Obesity is a modern health problem that impacts the modern world. Globally, more than 1 billion adults and 17.6 million children are estimated to be overweight (World Health Organization, 2009) and increasing. The proportional distribution of overweight around the world tends to vary with the developmental state of different countries. In developing nations, characterized by low standards of living and high population growth, underweight seems to be more prevalent than overweight. As countries modernize and begin to shift toward improved socioeconomic conditions, the wealthier portion of the population experiences an increase in the prevalence of high body mass index (BMI, the measure generally used as the indicator for obesity), while the poorer remain thin or underweight as a result of differing amounts of energy usage for tasks like transportation, and different levels of food accessibility and quality.

Further economic development results in another BMI shift, with the wealthy population receiving better nutrition and education which decreases BMI levels of the wealthy, as compared to members of the lower classes who experience an increased prevalence of high BMI (World Health Organization, 2009). The World Health Organization cites various obesity-associated health problems, many of which can be treated with an increase in physical activity. These include high blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular problems; insulin resistance and abnormal glucose metabolism; sleep apnea, which can lead to neurocognitive defects (Dietz, 1998); and orthopedic ailments (World Health Organization, 2004). Other consequences include menstrual irregularities, as well as mental and emotional health problems. Overweight youth may have an elevated risk of developing asthma (Strong et al, 2005), and obesity is often associated with a reduction in deep breathing, narrowing of airways, shortness of breath and increased wheezing (Lucas, 2005).

The Cost of obesity related diseases is listed below in the Major United States Cities.

Childhood Obesity Crisis: An Update

Source: Gallup

Unfortunately according to Ladabaum, in the latest Study from Stanford School of Medicine 2014, we are not over eating but we are under exercising.

So, what can we do about this crisis?

There is not one simple way to solve the childhood obesity crisis, and many solutions are needed.  One solution is to get kids moving in school, since children spend a significant amount of time in the school setting (see Childhood Obesity: Quality Physical Education as a Solution video to learn more).  Evidence-based physical education programs like SPARK can help increase youth physical activity during the school day.  In addition, quality before/after school programs, integrated classroom physical activity breaks, and recess can provide additional opportunities for physical activity in school.

SPARK has continuously demonstrated it can elevate the rate of youth physical activity through its evidence-based and field-tested materials and training programs.  To learn more about evidence-based, quality physical education as a solution to the childhood obesity crisis, click here.  And, do your part by advocating for quality physical education and physical activity programs in your school.

Dr. Stanley Bassin

University of California, Irvine

Clinical Professor

Preventive Cardiology

Physical Activity School Score: PASS it on!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Physical Activity School Score (PASS)

Why it’s Important that School Programs Provide and Promote Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is extremely important for children’s growth, motor skill and physical fitness development, and current and future health. Being physically active in childhood also provides a solid base for continuing to be physically active in adulthood. The 2008 National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity daily, with at least three days per week providing muscle and bone strengthening activities. Unfortunately many children do not meet these national physical activity recommendations–especially on school days.

Physical education and recess (at elementary schools) typically provide some opportunities for physical activity at school, but they are often not scheduled frequently enough or facilitated in ways that fully engage all children. Many elementary schools in the USA do not have certified instructors to teach PE, and sometimes schools offer no structured physical education at all. Even in classes taught by PE specialists, research shows that children are sometimes active only about one-third of PE lesson time. As well, not all schools provide recess daily and sometimes children are kept from recess periods for academic or disciplinary reasons. Thus, in addition to the need for quality physical education and recess, other opportunities for physical activity should be made available throughout the day (e.g., classroom activity breaks, before and after school programs, and opportunities to walk, bike, and skate to and from school)

PASS: A Tool to Assess Physical Activity Opportunities at School

Many parents, School Board and PTA members, and school administrators have never been educated about the need for children to engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and they are frequently unaware what quality physical activity programs at schools look like. Meanwhile, numerous research studies have identified specific evidence-based practices that are more likely engage children in physical activity at schools. To help advocate for physical activity programs at schools and provide information about these evidence-based practices to elementary school administrators, teachers and parents, Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored us to create an on-line, interactive educational tool. To do so, we developed the Physical Activity School Score (PASS).

PASS is an 8-item questionnaire that allows respondents to assess various aspects of the main sources of physical activity at an elementary school. PASS increases awareness of evidence-based practices by providing feedback immediately after a response is made to each item. Following the last item, respondents are provided with an overall school score, and an opportunity to see how their school compares to other schools on each item and overall. PASS also provides easy links to online information to evidence-based school physical activity practices.

How Well Does Your School Score?

PASS takes about five minutes to complete. We hope that you get in the PASSing zone and try it out to see how well your school scores compared to the research-based criteria. Additionally, we hope you will deliver information about PASS to your friends, school board members, the PTA, and the parents of all he kids you want to help become active.

To learn more about PASS and to evaluate an elementary school near you go to:

Here you can:

- See how PASS works

- Use PASS to assess an individual elementary school

- Download the “Pass  Background and Technical Manual”

Thom McKenzie, PHD, Professor Emeritus, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University

Monica Lounsbery, PHD, Associate-Vice Provost, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

[INFOGRAPHIC] SPARK 25 Years of Success! Countering Childhood Obesity Since 1989

Monday, June 16th, 2014

For 25 years, SPARK has made it our commitment to reduce childhood obesity. Follow us on our journey back to where it all began. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible, so thank you for all the support you have provided to help us achieve our dreams!

SPARK PEs 25th Anniversary Infographic

Share This Infographic On Your Site

5 Factors of Childhood Obesity

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Our infographic below illustrates the most significant biological, behavioral and environmental contributions to childhood obesity in America and some simple ways to maintain a healthy life.

5 Factors of Childhood Obesity

The Benefits of Structured Physical Activity for Early Childhood Programs

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Structured physical activities are usually led by a qualified adult and include organized sports, guided play, and school PE programs. Structured activities are important throughout a person’s life, but they play an essential role in early childhood—from birth to about five years of age. These are very tender years for a child. What they learn at this early age lays the groundwork for their future cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills. Let’s take a look at how structured physical activity benefits early childhood programs.

1. Structured activities encourage healthy behaviors to dispel childhood obesity.

Aside from our own research into the value physical activity plays in the lives of children under the age of 5, many other resources are coming up with similar findings. According to the CDC, over a third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2010. Obesity puts kids at an immediate risk for cardiovascular disease, prediabetes, and bone and joint problems. In the long term, obese children are much more likely to be obese as adults, putting them at risk for a number of severe issues, including osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and various forms of cancer.The Benefits of Structured Physical Activity for Early Childhood Programs

Structured activities go a long way to prevent excess weight and obesity. Studies show that obesity prevention programs in preschool are highly effective, particularly in areas of poverty. Participating in guided, controlled activities for just an hour a day burns calories, builds muscle, and encourages kids to maintain an active life.

While it may seem overboard, especially for toddlers, we can assure you it isn’t. Instilling healthy behaviors through structured activities at such an early age lays the foundation for a healthier society as a whole.

2. Structured physical activities develop motor skills, coordination, and movement at a young age.

Infants and toddlers are little balls of energy. They crawl, roll, kneel, creep up stairs, and eventually find themselves upright, taking their first tiny, stumbling steps. It’s no easy feat for an young child, but structured physical activity encourages movement and helps a child learn how his limbs and muscles can move in unison; in other words, the basics of coordination.

As their physical abilities develop, kids learn to use their hands more. Around the age of two, kids particularly enjoy finger play activities, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” which assist in developing dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Other finger play exercises, like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” allow children to touch and identify different body parts.

Even the most basic exercises and activities—throwing, catching, bouncing, or kicking a ball, for instance—help kids coordinate their movements.

Furthermore, structured activities pull developing babies away from products that inhibit free movement. According to Aid to Life, bouncers, walkers, and playpens significantly limit movement and force infants to move before they’re ready. As the saying goes, you have to crawl before you can walk.

To accommodate a toddler’s coordination, movement, and growing interest in navigating his space, try to accumulate at least 60 minutes of structured physical activity a day, which could involve simple games, going for a walk, or participating in a parent-child tumbling or dance class.

Examples of how our Early Childhood lesson plans help improve these skills include: Hoop It Up, Super Stunts and Have a Ball. Feel free to review our other sample lessons plans from our Early Childhood instructional unit.

3. Structured activity improves mood and self-esteem.

You know how great you feel after a run, thanks mainly to the production of endorphins, the good-feeling chemical that floods your body. The same happens to kids, but it’s not something they entirely need to understand. What they do understand is the fun and good times that come from engaging activities.

Structured physical activities reduce anxiety and depression and give children a healthy outlet for managing everyday stress. These ideas extend beyond childhood, well into adult life.

During structured activity, parents and adults also have the opportunity to address body image. We live in a world filled with false perceptions of body image, which builds an unhealthy ideal perfectionism and an overly critical sense of self, both of which are linked to depression and anxiety. Structured activities provide kids with a positive body image—personal and otherwise—which provides a greater sense of self, builds self-confidence,  and gives them the emotional and social skills they need to cope with restrictive, highly skewed societal norms that define how a person “should look” in a healthy, positive manner.

As evidenced by this report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, playing with kids also reinforces the strong bonds they have with their parents and teachers, bonds that offer unwavering love and support. This supportive foundation helps kids develop resiliency, optimism, and the ability to bounce back from adversity, traits that are important for facing future challenges.

The 5 Worst Kids Menu Foods

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Here is a look at the 5 worst kids menu foods found at some major restaurants.

The 5 Worst Kids Menu Foods

Tune in to HBO’s Documentary Series, “The Weight of the Nation” May 14-15

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Between 60 and 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Nearly a third of the nation’s youth age two to 19 are overweight or obese. We can’t stress enough the danger of obesity—it leads to serious health problems including heart disease, the leading cause of death in America. New generations of children face the possibility of shorter life expectancies than their parents. Why is America letting this happen?

HBO has partnered with the Institute of Medicine to premiere The Weight of the Nation, a four-part documentary series chronicling the country’s grave struggle with obesity.

SPARK is heavily invested in improving children’s health across the country, and we hope that you’ll take the time to watch the series. Through The Weight of the Nation, HBO is taking a significant step toward increasing awareness of the growing obesity epidemic and its implications.

The documentary shines a spotlight on many of the issues surrounding obesity, its causes, and its effects on health and everyday life with case studies and interviews with the country’s leading experts and the people struggling with it. In addition, the documentary series takes an unflinching look at all facets of childhood obesity, from school meals to declining physical education programs and beyond.

The documentary aims not only to raise awareness but cause action. It’s imperative for adults and children nationwide to shift toward a healthier lifestyle, and now. Our future depends on it.

Weight of the Nation viewing schedule:
Part 1 – “Consequences” – Monday, May 14th at 8:00 p.m.
Part 2 – “Choices” – Monday, May 14th at 9:10 p.m.
Part 3 – “Children in Crisis” – Tuesday, May 15th at 8:00 p.m.
Part 4 – “Challenges” – Tuesday, May 15th at 9:10 p.m.

If you don’t have HBO, you can still see the documentary series. All four parts will be available to view for free for an unlimited time at starting May 14th.
On May 16th, watch the first part of another series called The Weight of the Nation for Kids at 7:00 p.m. (all three parts will be available this fall).

Gather your friends and family, and tune in to this very important documentary.

Also- Click Here to view another video on Childhood Obesity and how we can overcome this national epidemic.

Watch the Weight of the Nation trailer:

Update on the 2012 Carol M. White PEP Grants

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Latest news for the 2012 PEP Grants:

There will be no new PEP competition this year. Instead, the program will make new awards by funding down the slate of 2011 applicants. Therefore, no new or revised applications for PEP grants will be accepted in 2012. Applicants that did not win in 2011 may have the opportunity to receive an award in 2012, depending on the score from last year’s competition. Awards will be announced by 9/30/2012.

This information was received via email from the PEP Program Manager, Carlette Huntley.

Information for PEP Grant Applicants/Winners:
  1. New: Resource Guide for PEP Applicants/Winners Click Here
  2. SPARK alignment with national & state standards Click Here
  3. PECAT Reports for SPARK K-8 PE  Click Here
  4. HECAT Reports for our Health & Nutrition Partners (Healthy Lifestyle Choices and Healthy Kids Challenge) Click Here
  5. Denver Public Schools PEP Grant success story Click Here
  6. SPARK Assessment Tools Click Here

How Has the Childhood Obesity Rate Changed in the Last 30 Years?

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Child obesity is a modern-day epidemic. The last 30 years have been especially devastating as the percentage of obese children skyrocketed to more than double what it was in the 80s. Thousands of non-profits, communities, schools, and political leaders have taken notice and started working to reverse the damage; but it is no easy feat—America’s lifestyle has changed, and we must get to the root of the problem to change it all.

Statistics: Child obesity has been closely measured since the early 1980s and the data shows us just how serious the problem is. The rate of obesity in children ages 6-11 increased from 6.5 to 19.6 percent between the years 1980 and 2008. In just 28 years, obesity nearly tripled in all age groups under 18 years old. Between 16 to 33 percent of adolescents are now obese, meaning in certain parts of the United States one in three kids is obese. Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado all have a child and adolescent obesity rate of fewer than 10% while Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Delaware have a rate of over 20 percent. This data is from 2005-2007, but the numbers have moved in the wrong direction since then.

Risks and Affects: Obese kids are at risk for numerous health problems and diseases. Obesity-related medical problems include type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and disability. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. With between 100,000-400,000 obesity-related deaths per year and an estimated healthcare expenditure of $117 billion, obesity has surpassed health-care costs related to smoking and drinking. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint problems, sleep apnea, and psychological/social problems are just the beginning of what an obese child can expect to deal with.

The causes and solutions to such a widespread epidemic are complex and run deeper than we’re able to cover in a brief blog post. However, we’ve described some of the main factors below to help you get a sense of the main issues surrounding this crisis.

Causes for obesity are vast, and often many different factors and special circumstances contribute. Below are just a few factors that can cause obesity:

  • Family Habits: Children are ten times more likely to be obese if both parents are obese. It isn’t always the family habits causing the children to be obese, but they can have a direct impact on the problem.
  • Food Choices: Fast food, vending machines, and the cheap snacks from the store are what kids have grown accustomed to and eat on a daily basis. Easy access to unhealthy food makes it easy for parents to feed their kids for cheap and also let the kids have what they want, but that doesn’t make it a healthy choice.
  • TV & Video Games: Studies have shown a direct correlation between the amount of TV watched and levels of obesity. The most obese adolescents are the ones who spent the most time in front of the television. Children today spend on average 25 percent of their day watching TV, playing video games, or spending time on the computer. For each additional hour a kid watches TV, they will probably consume 167 extra calories.
  • Fast Food: The American stereotype of eating too much fast food is backed up by several studies. Americans spent $6 billion on fast food in 1970 and $142 billion in 2006. Fast food is always easier and often cheaper than cooking healthy meals at home, which is why many American families eat out multiple times per week, sometimes every day.
  • Calorie Count: The poor food choices in combination with too much TV and video games have result in kids taking in more calories than they are burning every single day. That is the basic foundation of weight gain and must be reversed in order to keep our kids healthy.

Solutions for childhood obesity are also varied and are dependent on many different factors. Here are a few ideas for kick-starting a healthier lifestyle:

  • Physical Activity: Physical activity must increase to an hour per day just so kids can burn off the extra calories. Physical education programs at school have the potential to influence a kid’s perspective on exercise and sports, and families can enroll their children in after school sports. Even just taking the kids down to the park to toss a Frisbee will make an impact. Make moving fun, and your kids will learn to choose an active over sedentary lifestyle.
  • Healthier Choices: If you happen to be eating fast food, choose a healthier item on the menu with less calories, sugar, and simple carbohydrates. At home, ramp up the amount of vegetables and teach your kids to make their own healthy food choices. If the kids feel like they have a say in the decision, they will enjoy the cooking experience and be motivated to eat healthily. Schools must take out the junk food and replace it with healthy snacks and lunches to help in the fight against obesity.
  • Education and Participation: Health education at school, home, and in the community will teach the kids to make their own healthy decisions. School PE programs should focus on fun activities that everyone participates in. The community can promote healthy events and get the kids involved, the parents can teach the kids to cook, and kids can learn about the risks and benefits of a healthy versus poor diet. Safe parks to play in, safe bike trails, and community events like a trash clean-up get everyone on their feet and enjoying the great outdoors.