Teens propose solutions for obesity
KEYSTONE – A group of teens came up with guidelines for politicians, corporations and schools to help solve the problem of childhood obesity last week, but the bottom line is good nutrition starts locally.Forty top students from private math-, science- and technology-oriented schools recently spent a week at The Keystone Center discussing child and adolescent nutrition. They spent a day questioning physicians, nutrition experts and food manufacturers such as Kraft and The Coca-Cola Co.At the end of the weeklong national forum, students wrote suggestions on seven key issues: the food pyramid, American’s eating habits, marketing, government incentives, school involvement, key messages for children to learn and other recommendations for government involvement (see sidebar).But the key message students wanted to get across was the importance of personal and community involvement. They want to promote the message of “be healthy” rather than “be thin” or “don’t be fat” in order to minimize more stereotypes, prejudice and body image problems. And they believe the most effective ways to promote healthy lifestyles begins on a local level. Directors of The Keystone Center will send the summary to the White House and education committees and school districts throughout the nation.They hope policy makers will use the suggestions within the next 10 years to reduce the personal and financial burden of obesity-related health issues in young people, said Kasey Geoghegan, The Keystone Center director of development and community relations.==========================================GLANCESummary of kids’ solutionsIssue 1: What changes should be made to the food pyramid?• Create a more comprehensive version five years from now, including serving sizes and recommended number of servings based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
• Television ads would promote the pyramid, and the government would send two pyramid posters to every school.• Create an interactive Web site for children and make a child friendly food pyramid.• Place a simplified version of the pyramid on all pre-packaged foods that contain four or more servings.Issue 2: What changes in foods or eating behaviors should be encouraged?• Expand the Center for Disease Control’s VERB and recreational programs to integrate exercise and nutrition.• Broadcast healthy lifestyle tips of the day on television.• Encourage corporations to self-regulate portion sizes and gradually decrease them.• Start a government-funded distribution of signs in restaurants telling customers they can get nutritional information on menu items.Issue 3: Should companies market to children?• No new federal regulations or incentives on food advertising should be implemented, but governmental agencies should distribute seals of recognition to companies that comply with self-regulatory advertising standards.• States and schools should choose healthier product advertisements in schools.
• Companies should gradually increase healthy advertisements as the number of healthy products increases. Issue 4: Should the government create more incentives or disincentives in the food marketplace?• Fruit and vegetable subsidies should be increased by researching which industries require fewer subsidies and reallocating money to fruits and vegetable subsidies.• Consider state tax incentives for health-related items or services.Issue 5: How should schools help?• Make 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity for grades K-8 and one year of physical activity between grades 9-12 mandatory.• Incorporate health and nutrition into elementary school curriculum and offer at least one semester of personal fitness and nutrition education in high school. • Increase the scope and funding of programs that promote physical activity.Issue 6: What research should government support?• Preventative research with a focus on youth eating habits.
• Effectiveness of physical education and nutrition education programs in schools.• Social welfare: Whether the current food stamp program contributes to obesity by favoring the purchase of nutrient-poor foods and possible adjustments of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program because healthy habits begin early.• Medical research with an emphasis on pharmaceutical and surgical procedures.• Increasing nutrition without sacrificing taste; many corporations struggle with this issue.• Effects of marketing on teenagersIssue 7: Key messages kids should receive and how to deliver them:• Public-private partnerships in mass media should provide health facts or promote healthy eating.• All schools should choose which products go into their vending machines. We recommend half of the foods follow nutritional guidelines set by the Los Angeles Unified School District Obesity Prevention Motion. • A la carte items sold in schools should have nutritional information to inform students.==========================================Vail, Colorado