Pediatric Guidelines - School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
In schools, eating right and getting enough exercise are both very important. Sometimes, a school lunch and a physical education class are the only good meal and exercise time a child gets, depending on the life he or she has at home. Whether students know about eating healthy or simply want to learn, a school can create a supportive environment for that (Ogden, et al., 2002; Taras, 2005). The same is true for exercise, because many students do not live in areas where they can safely play outside, or they may find video games and other indoor pursuits more interesting (Lawton, 2009). With as much time as is spent on the internet and social media, some children rarely get outdoors at all, and that can seriously harm their health. If it is coupled with a poor diet, high in fat and calories, obesity can occur (CDC, 2010). It is being seen at younger and younger ages, and children and adolescents are struggling with their weight much more frequently than they did in the past (CDC, 2010).
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) created guidelines for healthy eating and physical activity in children that are followed by many schools throughout the country (CDC, 2010). These guidelines are the foundation for the development and implementation of physical activity and healthy eating policies. Schools then took the guidelines and used them to create their own programs to help students be more successful with their eating and exercise habits (Freedman, et al., 2007). By getting students interested in eating healthy foods and showing them that physical activity can be enjoyable, schools can help children get on a path that will lead students toward greater health and happiness in the present and the future (Daniels, et al., 2005; Freedman, et al., 2007).
The nine guidelines that have been created by the CDC are excellent points for discussion. They will be used here in order to showcase the importance of each guideline and address how they are used when schools create their own plans for healthy eating and physical activity for their students. Literature will also be reviewed that reinforces the value of the guidelines and focuses on the ways in which children can benefit from programs that help them with healthy eating habits and physical activity.
The first guideline is to use a coordinated approach to develop, implement, and evaluate healthy eating and physical activity policies and practices (CDC, 2010). Until a school is aware of what it is already doing and what it can provide that it is not currently offering to students, very little can be accomplished. Developing a plan may sound simple, but it actually takes a large amount of work (Hoyland, Dye, & Lawton, 2009). Once the plan is developed, time and effort is also needed to implement the plan. Working together is necessary in order to make sure students are receiving what they need in the way of exercise, as well as getting healthy foods during school lunch periods (Taras, 2005). Implementation of a plan is not enough, as it has to be evaluated frequently to ensure it is working correctly (Taras, 2005). If changes need to be made, they should be made early so as to make them as easy as possible and help the largest number of students.
Schools must establish environments that support healthy eating and physical activity (CDC, 2010). If the environment of a school is not conducive to these activities, they will not take place even if the school administration is focused on making things better for their students (Daniels, et al., 2005). Playgrounds with plenty of options for children of all physical activity levels are important, as are meal choices that are both healthy and good tasting (Healthy, 2010). Schools have to focus on the children and make sure their needs are met, but they also have to work with the children to teach them healthy habits that can last for a lifetime. By doing that, they will help kids feel better and learn more easily because they have the opportunity to get some exercise and eat properly (Ogden, et al., 2002).
Educational institutions should also provide a quality school meal program and ensure that students have only appealing, healthy food and beverage choices offered outside of the school meal program (CDC, 2010). One of the problems with most school lunches is that they really are not that appealing to the kids (Ogden, et al., 2002). While there are some good choices, there are also many options that either do not taste that good or that do not appeal to children because they are "only" healthy (Ogden, et al., 2002). In other words, many of the food choices either taste good or are healthy, and do not have both of those characteristics (Hoyland, Dye, & Lawton, 2009; Talas, 2005). Finding options that fit both good health and good flavor can be very difficult, but it is something that needs to be done if schools are going to help children eat a healthier diet (Taras, 2005).
Schools dedicated to helping children can implement a comprehensive physical activity program with quality physical education as the cornerstone (CDC, 2010). Getting children moving is one of the most important things a school can do (Taras, 2005). Kids sit in classrooms all day, and then they go home and sit in front of the television, computer, or video game console (Ogden, et al., 2002). Because of that, many children do not get the recommended level of exercise they should be getting, and that can lead to health problems in the future (Hoyland, Dye, & Lawton, 2009). Obesity is becoming an epidemic among children in the United States today, and one of the ways that can be curbed is through plenty of physical activity each day at school (Taras, 2005).
Another important focus area for schools is to implement health education that provides students with the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and experiences needed for lifelong healthy eating and physical activity (CDC, 2010). It is one thing to feed children healthy lunches and provide them with activities and exercises to experience, but it is another thing to develop lifelong habits in them related to these things (Taras, 2005). In other words, just making kids exercise and requiring them to eat healthy at school is not going to correct the problems with inactivity and obesity that the U.S. is facing with its youth (Taras, 2005). Any program that helps students be healthier has to teach them why they are becoming healthier, and the value of doing so (Taras, 2005). If they do not have the skills and knowledge to make good choices throughout their life, healthy eating and exercise in school will not help them for the future (Daniels, et al., 2005; Freedman, et al., 2007).
Schools must also provide students with health, mental health, and social services to address healthy eating, physical activity, and related chronic disease prevention (CDC, 2010). Getting and staying healthy is not just about eating better and moving more. It is also about being mentally healthy and recognizing when there are problems that need some type of correction or adjustment (Freedman, et al., 2007). For some children, the reason they do not eat healthy is because there is no food at home. Social services may be able to help the family, so they have more to eat and they understand the value of buying the right kinds of foods (Freedman, et al., 2007). Mental and physical health services are also important, because students need to be healthy and make good choices. If they are plagued by issues and do not have the means to get help and treatment for those issues, they can end up struggling with more than just eating right and staying active (Freedman, et al., 2007).
When schools partner with families and community members in the development and implementation of healthy eating and physical activity policies, practices, and programs, they can accomplish much (CDC, 2010). It is not just up to the school to make sure children are cared for during the day. The old saying that it "takes a village to raise a child" is essentially true. Families may want to do better for their children, but they may not be clear on the best ways to accomplish that (Taras, 2005). If the parents were not taught about healthy eating and physical activity, they do not know how to teach their children those behaviors, either, and that can lead to problems for the children that were completely unintended (Taras, 2005). When the school partners with the families and the community, though, everyone can learn from it and the child can have a better chance at learning good habits that will remain with him or her for a lifetime (Taras, 2005).
Educational institutions should also provide a school…
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