U.S. Schools Getting Better at Boosting Kids' Health

  • Only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provided daily physical education for the entire year for students in all grades.
  • 22 percent of schools did not require students to take any physical education.
  • 36 percent of schools did not prohibit tobacco use in all locations all the time.
  • 77 percent of high schools still sold drinks that weren't 100 percent juice, and 61 percent sold high-fat salty snacks in vending machines or school stores.
  • "If we want to build on the improvements that schools have made over the past six years, we need to involve many people and programs," said Howell Wechsler, director of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health. "Families, schools, school boards, and school administrators all need to work together to develop and implement policies and programs that promote health and safety among our nation's young people."

    Nora Howley is interim executive director of Action for Healthy Kids, a nonprofit organization formed to address the epidemic of overweight, undernourished and sedentary children by focusing on changes at schools. The group's stated goal: "To improve children's nutrition and increase physical activity, which will in turn improve their readiness to learn."

    "We are pleased to see the progress that has been made from 2000 to 2006 in the areas of nutrition services and food and beverages served outside of schools," Howley said. "With the local wellness policy mandate, as well as continued state policy development and the work of the thousands of Action for Healthy Kids volunteers across the country and other committed school personnel, parents, and community members, we are confident that progress will continue to be made in these areas, in physical education and other critical areas.

    "We are also looking forward to seeing the full report and to continuing to work with CDC and our other partners as well as our volunteers to address the epidemic of overweight, undernourished and sedentary youth and create schools where all kids develop the lifelong habits necessary to promote health and learning."

    More information

    For more on the report, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    SOURCES: School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS) 2006, , Oct. 19, 2007; David Appel, M.D., director, Montefiore Medical Center School Health Program, New York City; Nora Howley, interim executive director, Action for Healthy Kids, Skokie, Ill.; October 2007 Journal of School Health

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