03 Jan Addressing obesity and diabetes in schools
On December 26th, a date I usually associate with exiting a food induced stupor, CNN published an article revealing the number of obese young children is declining. Admittedly the decline is slight, but it is a decline just the same. And that is a good thing. With the health issues that go along with obesity, including diabetes, we need to work to continue this trend among youth.
The CNN article focuses on daycare aged children, particularly among minorities, but other programs, like California Project Lean, focus on preventing obesity, and increasing overall school wellness. Approximately 215 thousand people under 20 have diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, making diabetes in particular, a concern for schools and day cares (CDC).
As discussed in the School Nurse News “Diabetes Update”, programs aimed at reducing these numbers find success in small steps, like focusing on a theme (ex: Drink more water or Increase exercise) for a quarter or semester, allowing students time to truly grasp the effects of smart health decisions. Many programs focus on snacks and sugary drinks in particular, encouraging students to consume less, but also limiting the availability of it in schools. In addition, getting students involved in the process is essential to changing the overall behavior of the student body. Peers are extremely instrumental in choices among children and teens, and if students see their peers making healthy choices, there will likely be a trickle down effect. Another step is to make sure the message to students is clear, concise, and reaches the students. A small effort is good, but to really make a difference, students need to know a push for a healthier student body is underway.
Resources for school personnel are readily available on the National Diabetes Education Program website, Diabetes HealthSense. Resources are available for caregivers, parents, school nurses, as well as students. These resources can help curb the behaviors that contribute to obesity and diabetes, and keep the obesity numbers falling. At the risk of cliché, a little goes a long way, and if each school can make an effort, the cumulative effects will be seen even more prominently, and our youth as a whole will be healthier, across all demographics.