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Fighting Obesity by Strengthening the Schools

Jenny Decker RN's picture

According to the new report from the Institute of Medicine, strengthening the schools may be at the heart of obesity prevention in the nation.

Tuesday the Institute of Medicine released the report “Weight of the Nation” depicting the nation public health problem of obesity. The public health issue is becoming alarming and the IOM has stated that if it is allowed to continue, the results could be catastrophic. With two thirds of adults and one third of the nation’s children obese at this time, medical costs in illnesses related to obesity exceed $190.2 billion. For the upcoming year of 2030, it is projected that 42 percent of all adults in the US will be obese. To prevent this escalation, the IOM recommends that strengthening the children of the nation through the schools may be one of the possible ways to attack the problem.

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The First Lady Michelle Obama launched her campaign for healthier food choices in the schools two years ago. Although this campaign has had an effect to some degree, the IOM feels it is urgent that the efforts be stepped up significantly. The IOM states that starting with the children in the school, by strengthening them with efforts to provide a variety of healthy foods and providing each child with the chance to have at least 60 minutes of physical activity as well as education on how to prevent obesity, the numbers projected for the nation in becoming obese may go down.

Hitting the schools was not the only suggestion for action to prevent obesity by the IOM. The IOM states that making it easier for people to have physical activity in their daily lives is another target. This can be done in several ways. Targeting all the areas of people’s lives is important. Bringing together the components will attack the problem. The IOM states that no one specific strategy can address the prevention of obesity. Schools, work places, homes, health care providers, and insurance companies must be brought together to deal with obesity prevention. Just one or two interventions will not make a big impact on obesity, but putting all the strategies together, the IOM says that the effects will be “reinforced, amplified, and maximized".

Spreading education about exercise and healthy eating choices should be brought to the level of the anti-tobacco campaign, according to the Institute of Medicine. The comparison of the two public health issues is almost identical. However, obesity may have much wider spread related medical problems, driving costs up even higher. Environments all around must be provided with clean water in parks, recreational areas, workplaces, schools, and so forth. Fast food chains can revise some of their menus to provide healthy choices for their customers.

With obesity comes a host of other medical concerns. These medical problems often feed off each other and usually there is not just one problem the person with obesity gets. It may be only a few, but it may be a large number of them. Type II diabetes mellitus is the most commonly known adverse related problem due to obesity. Heart disease and stroke come after diabetes, with many types of cancer following them. Other problems include sleep apnea, various debilitating and chronic illnesses, and gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Treating all this costs the medical system billions of dollars each and every year.