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The need for these types of interventions has been abundantly documented in recent years at the national as well as state and local levels. At the national level, the Healthy People 2010 initiative cites physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity as being high-priority areas for prevention and intervention in general and especially for youths, because:
1. The percentage of overweight youths has doubled during the past 30 years;
2. As many as 70 to 80% of overweight teens become overweight adults; and,
3. Poor eating habits and inactivity are directly related to conditions of overweight and obesity (Kyles and Lounsbery 38).
Based on the foregoing trends, increased participation in physical activity and sports should be considered an important enterprise for everyone, but particularly young girls who are at higher risk of developing poor eating habits (Kyles and Lounsbery 38).
The problem of obesity and poor eating habits, though, cannot be solved using one approach in isolation of other evidence-based protocols, a problem that is further exacerbated by the environment in which these young consumers are learning, or rather not learning, about food and nutritional choices (Kyles and Lounsbery 38). For instance, the results of a study by Lee et al. (2009) determined that marketers in the food and beverage industries use televised as well as online resources to promote unhealthy choices, most especially for candy and gum or food products high in sugar. Furthermore, these young consumers are frequently "invited to 'play with' the foods integrated as active game components" (Lee et al. 130). More troubling still, despite the opportunity represented by these interactive games to educate young consumer about making healthy choices, just a few of the games reviewed by Lee and her associates (2009) educated children concerning nutritional and health issues. According to Schneider and Stokols, "We must refocus on the revised definition of health promotion as a process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their health while working to enhance the capability of individuals and communities to effectively respond to challenges posed by the environment" (314).
Even when they do pursue increased physical fitness regimens or engage in school-sponsored activities, the danger exists that these pursuits can cause poor eating habits as well. For instance, according to Griner, Hernandez, Michels et al. (2006), "Because many dancers consider themselves overweight, they consume significantly less nutrients than is recommended for good health. Despite high energy needs, dieting and maintaining a low body weight are emphasized in dance classes" (42). Certainly, each discipline demands a commitment to excellence, but when these demands translate into poor eating habits, the very real danger exists that even the most otherwise physically fit individuals can suffer from poor nutrition (Griner et al. 43). These issues are not restricted to dance classes only, though, but also affect eating habits in other school-sponsored activities as well. For example, Griner et al. report that, "Other sports that emphasize weight control -- such as distance running, swimming, gymnastics, skating, and diving -- also put participants at risk for poor eating habits, eating disorders, and related medical problems" (43). In response to these issues, Griner and her associates caution that physical fitness educators are on the front-lines of improving eating habits in young people. According to Griner et al., "Dance and physical educators should learn to recognize and refer at-risk students and to design beneficial training programs" (42).
Finally, complex problems frequently require complex solutions and that is certainly the case in formulating timely and effective interventions to address poor eating habits and obesity levels at the national level. In this regard, Smith et al. (2008) emphasize that, "A singular focus on risk factors that are moderately proximate causes of disease, such as poor eating habits, can be seen as a major limitation or bias to complete mental and physical health treatment and the rightful trajectory of science for understanding and mediating these causal relationships" (64). Therefore, there is a need for further investigation of the antecedents of poor eating habits among young people today.
The research showed that poor eating habits and increasingly sedentary lifestyles have contributed to an increased incidence of obesity in young people, with some authorities maintaining these levels represent an epidemic and a threat to the public health. Because young people who exercise poor eating habits are at high risk of remaining obese during their lifetimes, the need for timely interventions has never been greater. Unfortunately, the research also showed that there are some powerful forces at work in shaping individual definitions of health that defy easy remedies, and forcing adults to engage in physical fitness activities is only possible in the military or prison. The schools, though, represent the perfect setting for an increased emphasis on physical fitness activities and healthy nutritional choices in the lunchroom. In the final analysis, the need for action the national level is required to address these problems, and the sooner evidence-based solutions are implemented for young consumers, the more effective they will be in reducing the alarming level of obesity in many countries today.
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