Nonprofits Take Aim At Schools To Tackle Childhood Obesity

More than one-third of children and adolescents nationwide were overweight or obese in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here in Houston, the CDC says, 14 percent of high school students were obese in 2011.

Dr. Shreela Sharma at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston says childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions.

“Children who are obese are at a very high risk for being obese as adults, which increases their risk for type 2 diabetes and they have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, being obese increases your risk of mortality from all causes.”

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation wants to bring down childhood obesity by 2015. The organization was founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation in 2005. This year, the Alliance has teamed up with celebrity fitness coaches and a fitness dance company to help schools integrate daily exercises into the classroom.

Tara Stiles is a former model and current yoga instructor in New York City. She is one of the celebrity fitness experts who are part of the “Fit for a Healthier Generation” campaign.

“They’re really designed to get kids up and moving right on their desk at school, so the teacher pops the tape in between, you know, math class and science class and the kids all get up and they get excited and they do their fitness break.”

More than 100 schools in the greater Houston area are participating in the campaign by using the instructive videos and other resources provided by the Alliance. To get students interested, the exercises aim to be fun for kids.

“We really made sure they were, like, fun and engaging and, you know, different routines, and I know with yoga it’s fun, you can sort of challenge your balance and make little jokes here and there, and so it really keeps people engaged instead of us sort of telling people what to do.”

Lamar High School is one of the schools taking advantage of some of the Alliance’s resources. In addition, the school is working with Health Corps, another school health organization.

Marlene Watts is the Health Corps coordinator at Lamar. She says physical education class in high schools is not enough to keep students fit.

“Unless you’re involved in some type of sport or athletic team on campus, there’s ways of falling below and not being as active as you potentially could be.”

Healthful nutrition is another tool in the fight against childhood obesity. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed stricter standards for the type of food available in schools.

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