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Prevention/Reduction of Childhood Obesity in Shelby County, Tennessee
Obese and overweight children constitute about 30 percent of American children. Since this is a big number, pressure is mounting on the entire public health care system. However, the levels of obesity vary from one county to another making it necessary to employ specific measures in specific places. Therefore, I take this opportunity to propose a bill on the prevention and reduction of childhood obesity in Shelby County, Tennessee. It should be noted that medical expenditure on childhood obesity in Shelby County has risen almost tripling in the last two decades. The persistent increase in these medical expenses is becoming a heavy burden for the taxpayers.
Apart from the cost burden of childhood obesity for the taxpayers, obese children are exposed to the risk of developing chronic diseases and psychological problems. Such children may develop a variety of diseases including high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart diseases, and diabetes. These chronic diseases are among the leading causes of death in Shelby County.
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Approaches that Can Be Used to Solve Childhood Obesity in Shelby County, TN
I acknowledge the fact that the Shelby County Government has dedicated its efforts and resources to deal with childhood obesity through various pieces of legislation. However, the intensity of the situation calls for the use of more approaches including but not limited to the following:
- Introducing nutrition education in the early school years;
- Enacting a legislation that stipulates the type of school nutrition;
- Introducing thorough physical education programs in schools.
Introduction of Health Eating Education in Schools
Education is purposed to impart knowledge in people in a variety of areas. However, more emphasis has been put on exposing children to knowledge that would enable them to contribute to stabilizing the economy and being self-reliant. In the area of nutrition, children are mainly taught on the different types of nutrients that are contained in different types of food. Students should also be taught on the proportions that they should take in. They should understand that when they take in more nutrients than their bodies need, the excess is converted and stored in their bodies. Children should be made aware of the health benefits of healthy eating habits (Moss, 2014). Such strategy will work best if healthy eating is incorporated into te school curriculum. The weakness of this strategy is that it will increase the syllabus workload. Therefore, it is bound to face opposition from teachers and other educationists.
Enacting Pieces of Legislation that Regulates School’s Nutrition
It has been observed that consumption of junk food has risen to quite high levels in the past two decades. Such phenomenon has been observed not only in Shelby County but also in other parts of the country. Fast or junk food is rich in fats, which makes it dangerous when consumed in high amounts. It also lacks fiber and therefore, go through the digestion process considerably fast. Organism copes with the high speed of digestion by storing more of what is eaten. Most children prefer this type of food since they find it tastier. Thus, they have to be monitored to ensure that they do not exclusively feed on it. Therefore, schools that have breakfast and lunch programs should mainly provide students with vegetables, fruits, and other types of food that is rich in fiber such as whole grain baked products like brown bread.
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According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), this approach was enacted school nutrition legislations in 2011 in Massachusetts and Mississippi, and it has registered success in those states. The weakness of this strategy is that it may interfere with children’s preferences. Therefore, it is likely to face opposition from the children.
Introducing Mandatory Physical Education Programs in Schools
In 2008, the USA Department of Health and Human Services issued guidelines on physical activity for the American citizens. The department recommended that people engage in rigorous but enjoyable physical activity for 60 minutes daily (Lavie, 2014). However, people have not been keen on observing the recommendations of the Department of Health and Human Services. For instance, some schools in Shelby County have not been closely monitoring students’ physical activities. Therefore, education officials should ensure that all schools set a side time for physical activities and that learners are supervised during such sessions.
The fact that almost 30 percent of children do not exercise even as few as three days a week is worrying. Schools opt to set aside for exercise because physical education is costly and diverts attention from academics at the same time. Shelby County education officials should appeal for a budgetary allocation to fund physical education. Although all the states have their own standards of physical education, more sttill has to be done. The weakness of this measure is that it has cost implications. It requires more funds to initiate and therefore, will face opposition from parents and the government.
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The National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2014) concluded that enacting a legislation that stipulates the type of school nutrition is the most recommendable measure to take. Therefore, specifying what children should eat both at home and in school would largely help reduce childhood obesity. Besides, children need help in making choices and therefore, the decision on the appropriate food cannot be left to them. Besides, children are generally active and do not require pushing all the time to participate in physical activities (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Since the government cannot dictate what children eat at home, it can make use of this measure in schools. Also, this measure does not require additional expenses. The county assembly must enact this policy to save the children from the dangers of obesity.
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