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Fighting Childhood Obesity

by PCFSN July 28, 2010

Shellie Pfohl

As the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition I am profoundly aware of the importance of making physical activity and nutrition accessible and affordable for all Americans, especially children. This is a multifaceted problem, and I’ll address several dimensions of this issue in this discussion. 

Availability of facilities that provide healthy, affordable food in our communities is a necessity.  If we do not have facilities within our neighborhoods where we can obtain fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices, then kids are going to continue to buy the Twinkies.  We’ve got to incent our retail establishments to be able to come into communities. I think we’ve seen success where we’ve put forth the effort in this area.

The school environment has a strong influence on whether physical activity and nutrition are accessible to children. Kids spend a good part of their days, weeks, and years in school.  We’ve got to continue pushing for policy change as it relates to physical education and school meals.

In many cases we are going in the wrong direction. Physical education is being cut out of schools, and it is so very important.  Many states are passing policies mandating physical activity. This time could be recess, before or after school programs, or physical education.  The unintended consequence  we are hearing from school officials is “we are doing our 15 minutes of recess and then kids are walking between classes, so we are just going to cut PE because nobody said we have to do PE.”  Physical education is a curricular area.  It is an educational area that should be taught by a certified physical education teacher.   It is not recess.

When advocates like myself come in and say we need more physical education, what we are really saying is we need more quality PE.

We know it can be done.  Often we hear that test scores are the priority and we only have so many minutes in each school day, but we have examples of schools that have made it a priority where kids are getting 30 minutes of physical education every day and their test scores are increasing.  For more information regarding this, reference the Centers for Disease Control and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education report on academics and physical education. There is an increasing body of research that shows definitively that kids who are physically active perform better academically. It can decrease their delinquency and behavioral issues, as well as help them concentrate so they tend to perform better on tests.

Has your organization worked to improve access to the health of America’s children through physical activity and nutrition? How? To learn how you can get involved, visit and become a President’s Challenge Advocate today.

Note:  The President’s Council’s name was recently changed by Executive Order from President Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN) in recognition of the fact that good nutrition must go hand in hand with fitness and sports participation in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle.


7/30/2010 11:43:06 AM #

I am an avid supporter of PE in the schools, both personally and professionally.  The Center on Health Promotion at UIC has a DRRP grant to include children with disabilities in these initiatives as the need for and benefits of physical activity in the schools as a tool to combat obesity definitely applies to youth with disabilities as well.

Blythe United States |

8/1/2010 8:26:05 PM #

I only lately commenced leaving comments! Makes me think a small significantly more about what I enjoyed and learned about the post! Amazing tips and hints, thanks!

Jordan 11 United States |

9/24/2010 6:14:03 PM #

I really agree with this.  If we want our kids to be healthy, then they need to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and we hope that the foods they are being fed at school are healthy foods.  I have always believed that P.E. in school was a very important thing because it gets our kids up and moving.  Although I don't believe that they are feeding our children horrible foods in our schools, I actually wonder what the fat content is, how much of these foods are processed, and how healthy they actually are.  If they start feeding them the right kinds of foods, not processed foods, and the right combinations of foods at school, then that mixed with physical activity would actually help our child obesity problem a great deal.  I have been reading certain things on what foods we actually should and shouldn't eat.  What kinds of foods help our bodies burn fat, and which ones actually make our bodies store fat.  It's interesting to think that just simply changing the things we eat can have that much of an effect on our bodies without even having to exercise, but add exercise and you have some healthy children, as well as adults.  I guess we will just have to keep working to make our nation a healthier one by learning the right foods for us to eat.  

Mark United States |

12/12/2010 10:41:30 PM #

Of course there must be a symbiotic relationship between exercise and healthy food choices they go hand in hand. But as stated the issue is best dealt with when our children are learning in the schools.
If we continually provide poor food to our children in their school canteens then what message are we sending them anyway. It must be addressed at that point where they are still influenced by these choices.
We are the cause and the only reason they are turning out this way. Obesity is such an issue these days and it will only get worse if some definitive action is not taken soon.

Obesity by Sara United States |

6/23/2011 11:45:49 AM #

Taking actions regarding this matter is a must! Great points you have here and I definitely and totally agree with you.

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Redrick United States |

8/22/2011 1:57:31 AM #

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paul zand United States |

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