Posts Tagged ‘First lady’

SPARK Supports White House Task Force Report on Childhood Obesity

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

In February, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within one generation. As part of this effort, President Barack Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an inter agency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to end the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

The report, titled Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, includes Early Childhood Education, Physical Education and Physical Activity recommendations. SPARK is already well aligned with the recommendations in this report!

Early Childhood Education

“Young children need opportunities to be physically active through play and other activities. Physical activity assists children in obtaining and improving fine and gross motor skill development, coordina¬tion, balance and control, hand-eye coordination, strength, dexterity, and flexibility—all of which are necessary for children to reach developmental milestones.
Preschool years, in particular, are crucial for obesity prevention due to the timing of the development of fat tissue, which typically occurs from ages 3-7…. Features of the child care center environment, including policies regarding activity and provider training, as well as the presence of portable and fixed play equipment, influence the amount of physical activity children engage in while at child care.”

  • SPARK Early Childhood is designed specially for children ages 3-5 years to increase physical activity and development
  • SPARK EC was one of the first large-scale, urban efforts to evaluate a comprehensive physical activity program for the 3-5 age group. The project concluded in winter 2004, and showed the SPARK EC program was very well received by the Head Start teachers, increased students’ moderate to vigorous activity levels to over 50% of class time, and improved the number of minutes children engaged in activity throughout the day.

School-Based Approaches to Increasing Physical Activity

“Schools are a key setting to focus on, given the significant portion of time children spend there. Schools can undertake a combination of strategies and approaches to help children be more active including:
– Creating infrastructure and policies that increase access to and encourage physical activity for all students;
– Collecting valid and reliable data and using analytical tools and systems to understand student needs and fitness levels, and promoting approaches that are effective in changing physical activity behaviors and, ultimately, health outcomes;
– Maintaining strong physical education (PE) programs that engage students in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 50% of PE class time;
– Providing a variety of activities and specific skills so that students can be physically active not just during class but throughout the day and year; and
– Providing qualified school professionals who are trained in teaching methods to engage stu¬dents in PE, including for students who face greater barriers to activity.”

  • SPARK physical education and activity programs have been proven to increase levels of MVPA, physical fitness, motor skill development, student enjoyment of the program and academic achievement
  • SPARK was recently identified as a successful model for combating childhood obesity in the report, “Fighting Obesity: What Works, What’s Promising” by the HSC Foundation. The report speaks of SPARK’s history, practice, and methods. SPARK was the ONLY program recommended for physical education AND physical activity.
  • SPARK is the ONLY National Institute of Health (NIH) researched program available providing coordinated curriculum, training, follow up support, and equipment for Pre-K through 12th grade teachers.
  • A Child Trends report titled “What Works for the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity Among Children”, highlights SPARK as a program that has proven to increase physical activity among students.

Physical Education

“Physical Education (PE) is considered the cornerstone of a school-based comprehensive physical activity program. It provides the basis and opportunity for young people to gain the knowledge and skills needed to maintain physically active lifestyles throughout childhood and into adulthood. A quality PE program can increase student participation in physical activity, increase their physical fitness, and enhance their understanding about the purpose and methods of physical activity. Participation in daily PE is associated with an increased likelihood of participating regularly in moderate to vigorous physical activity.”

  • SPARK Physical Education is an award-winning, research-based program that has been proven to increase activity levels, knowledge, skills, and fitness. SPARK elementary physical education is the ONLY nationally-disseminated program that positively affects ALL of these student outcomes:
    • Academic Achievement
    • Activity levels (moderate to vigorous surpasses 50% of class time)
    • Fitness achievement
    • Sport Skills development
    • Enjoyment of PE
  • SPARK’s the only PE program that has data to show students statistically significantly increase their Fitness gram scores.
  • SPARK activities can be integrated throughout the school day to help your school provide physical education daily

Nutrition Education

“More, and better, nutrition education is needed in many schools. While approximately 75% of schools require nutrition education as part of health curriculum requirements, the time spent on nutrition and dietary behavior has declined in recent years, and funding has been limited. Many teachers are not equipped with the skills and knowledge to integrate and promote nutrition education into their classroom curricula. Research has shown that nutrition education interventions, if well designed and effectively implemented can improve dietary behaviors.”

  • SPARK has teamed up with Healthy Kids Challenge and Healthy Lifestyle Choices to provide nutrition and health education curriculum and training programs
  • Healthy Kids Challenge is a nationally recognized non-profit led by an exemplary team of registered, licensed dietitians with many years of school, program, and community wellness experience
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices curriculum is flexible and provides a variety of scheduling and implementation options for busy elementary teachers

More good news!

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

After my excitement about the President and First Lady announcing multiple strategies for combating childhood obesity on February 9, I did not imagine the next good news would come so soon. Two weeks later, on February 24, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held a summit on health and obesity. He was joined by Bill Clinton, which made it a star-studded and bipartisan event.

The real action came at the press conference after the summit. The Governor announced new bills and executive actions that again place California at the forefront of public health efforts to improve physical activity, eating, and obesity. There were several important policy initiatives introduced, as explained in a press release: Most of the policies were designed to increase children’s physical activity! This focus on getting California kids active is very welcome. The policies cover a wide range of issues, including simplifying funding for joint use agreements, targeting Safe Routes to Schools funding to disadvantaged communities, and requiring 30 minutes of daily physical activity in after-school programs.

Of particular interest is the proposed law to require 50% of PE classes to be spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) by 2013. This has been a public health objective for decades, but has never been adopted by a state. If passed, this bill could start a national trend to align public health and education goals. The goal of PE has always been to “teach through the physical” so I expect this law to help PE meet its multiple goals. Requiring 50% MVPA will stimulate teachers to find ways of teaching skills and knowledge through activity, in a way that will meet the current health needs of children.

Even when the bill passes, there is a long way to go to effective implementation. Between now and 2013, the PE community and public health advocates will need to work hard, work smart, and work together to obtain the funding needed to train teachers, adopt curricula, and develop practical accountability systems required to bring highly active PE classes to all California students. We will have to be sure that improvements are made in the low-resource schools that have the poorest quality PE now. But the effort will be worth it. More-active PE will be great for California children’s health and academic performance. This will be a big step toward defeating childhood obesity. I believe that highly-active PE classes will be seen as an improvement in quality by school administrators, parents, and legislators. Improving quality is a strong foundation for increasing PE minutes per week and bringing PE to all high school students.

Please write to the Governor and your representatives in Sacramento expressing your support for these bills that will help California children become more active and healthy. Make sure the professional and civic organizations you belong to support these bills. This is a great opportunity for California physical activity and physical education advocates, so let’s make sure the bills are passed, then work for the funding and support to implement them throughout the State. If you are not in California, then recommend your state’s leaders adopt the same, or even better, measures to improve children’s physical activity. Let’s see which state will win!

Jim Sallis

Remember This Date.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

February 9, 2010. Write this down; make a mental note; consider it significant. This is the date that First Lady Michelle Obama announced her “Let’s Move” initiative to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. It was all over the news. But you may have missed another announcement that is even more significant. The President appointed a Task Force on Childhood Obesity consisting of leaders of multiple federal departments and agencies. 2/9/10 is the day that all of our efforts to get kids active, fit, and healthy got a name, some celebrity, and some power.

This is a one-two punch of focus and power. The spotlight will now be strong. This is our best chance in a long time to make great progress on our shared vision of active healthy kids.

If, like me, you have been working for a long time to help children be active and healthy, we have been waiting for our concerns to be at the top of the national agenda. We can be proud that we have been on the right path and pursued a noble cause. But movement and change have been too slow. That is likely to change now. People in power want to listen to us now. They have joined our quest.

But progress will not be easy. Many Americans don’t think the country needs to change to provide more opportunities for kids to be active and to remove barriers to safe physical activity. Many people have a “just do it” mentality—it is a parent’s job to serve good food and tell the child to be active. But when good food is not in your neighborhood, no parks are in your neighborhood, traffic is too fast, and PE has been cut from the school day, what is a parent going to do? All Americans face barriers to being active, and it should be our goal to make it more convenient, safer, and more enjoyable to be active every day.

But the place to start is PE. This is the one program that can affect every child every day. PE needs to be active, and it needs to be taught by well-trained teachers. We know this works, and we can improve PE quickly. SPARK has been helping schools deliver activity-promoting PE for over 15 years. SPARK is ready and able to do more. Today, it was announced that the state of Florida received about $2 million to provide SPARK PE to every middle school in the state! One of the four goals of Let’s Move is to provide more opportunities for physical activity, and SPARK will help achieve it.

Our jobs are not finished. We cannot sit back and think the President and First Lady will make sure excellent PE is in every school; they will not eliminate childhood obesity on their own. We need to work harder, but our work is likely to have more of an effect now. It is up to us as educators, experts in PE and physical activity, parents, and members of our communities to support Let’s Move. We need to speak up. We need to keep information, good ideas, success stories, and good news about PE, physical activity, and solutions to childhood obesity visible in every communication channel all around the country. Please do your part. Sign on at and send your thoughts to the First Lady.

Make 2/9/10 the day that you became a more vocal advocate for active healthy kids.

Jim Sallis

A New Role for the First Lady

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Did you watch the recent State of the Union address? During his talk, the President made a point of introducing the First Lady and announcing her as a leader in a new national campaign to combat childhood obesity. Perfect fit for Michelle, with her great arms and all!

While George W. Bush was one of the most fit President’s ever (did you know his vital signs were similar to that of an Olympic athlete?) the First Couple stays consistent with their workouts (or so we’re told). Kudos to them. You have to think they have pretty busy schedules — so the old, “I don’t have the time to exercise” excuse is disproven once again.

A recent article in the San Diego Union alluded to the fact that Michelle is taking her newfound commitment to countering childhood obesity seriously, and for her, it’s personal. She said their family pediatrician warned her to monitor Sacha and Malia’s activity levels and what they’re eating. In reaction to this Michelle commented, “In my eyes, I thought my children were perfect. I didn’t see the changes.”

She said her physician kept a close eye on African-American children and “warned that he was concerned something could be off-balance.” Obama admitted that parents often recognize that kids in general don’t eat right and aren’t exercising enough, but “we always think that only happens to someone else’s kids, and I was in that position.”

Let’s hope in the weeks and months ahead, we see a genuine effort to support the dissemination of evidence-based physical education and physical activity programs, proper nutrition/healthy eating, behavior and environmental change strategies, and certainly if you want to bring your arms around the entire issue and galvanize the stakeholders — Coordinated School Health can do that.

Won’t you consider writing a letter to the White House and the First Lady, congratulating and thanking her for taking up this worthy cause? And if you do, please encourage her to support programs that have been proven to work and last. In these days of tight budgets, it’s especially important that every penny is invested wisely.

Every journey begins with a first step. Thanks to the President and First Lady, we’re on our way!

-Paul Rosengard