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National program aims to fight childhood obesity

September 4, 2012

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, so this article by Jake Steinfeld (best known as the creator of Body by Jake, a line of fitness equipment and a syndicated TV show, and chairman of the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils) is particularly appropriate. He has a “fitness program” that he set up in California (has anyone heard of it?) and it supposedly reduced childhood obesity rates over the course of seven years.

Fighting obesity isn’t easy, and it will take a lot of helping hands to get, and keep, us on the right track. Parents, health-care providers, organizations, educators and others are key to making a positive impact in the health of our children.

In fact, all of these groups were instrumental in supporting my efforts to launch a fitness campaign in California that grew in 2011 to 1.4 million students, who all took part in a monthlong fitness challenge. Over the course of seven years, we saw a decrease in childhood obesity rates in California, and as a beneficial side effect, schools that participated in the campaign witnessed increased academic scores!

You notice, Jake doesn’t cite any numbers here — no percentage on the decrease in childhood obesity, nor any percentage of increased academic scores. If it was so successful, why does he not quote numbers to back up his claims?

The “California project” had such a positive impact on the health of kids that I decided to expand the program nationwide. We created the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, which is a multimillion-dollar physical fitness campaign. This newly launched program seeks to encourage and reward innovation in the field of youth fitness by awarding state-of-the-art fitness centers to schools that use new and unique methods to promote student physical activity and wellness.

Making this campaign even greater is the fact that it doesn’t rely on taxpayers or state funding. It’s fully funded through a public/private sector partnership with companies such as Coca-Cola. This year alone, we will be putting fitness centers in schools throughout Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts.

Does anyone else see the irony of having private sector sponsors like Coca-Cola funding a program to end childhood obesity by awarding state-of-the-art fitness centers to schools?

The National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils program will roll out in Georgia within the next year, and will eventually include all 50 states. Our goal is to have fitness centers in every elementary and middle school in the United States, enabling us to help build a nation that, through innovation and a “don’t quit” attitude, boasts the fittest and healthiest kids in the world.

Here we go with the state of Georgia again. What is it about Georgia and the kids there that these do-gooders think they have to butt in and change them? Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta wasn’t doing enough damage? Now this guy has to run in and put his two cents’ worth in too?

I don’t have anything against giving schools state-of-the-art fitness centers, but exactly how are those school systems going to pay for staffing those centers when most schools can’t even afford to pay their teachers a living wage? When they can’t even afford class sizes where kids get the attention they need in order to learn? When they can’t even afford to keep art and music classes for kids?

This goes for schools in every state, and the schools that can afford those fitness centers are the ones who least need them — schools in affluent neighborhoods, towns, and cities, whose students come from privileged families and have all the extracurricular activities that poor schools and families just can’t afford.

As the nation recognizes September as National Childhood Obesity Month, we can celebrate knowing that we are tackling this issue head-on and that the more people we get on board, the greater success we will have in making childhood obesity a thing of the past.

We know that physical activity and exercise can help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases; enhance individual health and quality of life; and reduce health-care costs. And studies have shown that physical activity improves academic achievement; increases confidence and self-esteem; and reduces discipline problems.

I hate to tell him, but just because he gets kids more active doesn’t mean they’re going to get thinner. Even if kids eat healthy and exercise, even if their health might improve, that doesn’t mean they’ll lose weight (some might, some might not). And expecting to make childhood obesity a thing of the past, well, that’s an unrealistic goal. There have always been fat kids and, until someone figures out how to get rid of all the genes that contribute to a person being fat, there will always be fat kids and adults.

I’m not so sure that physical activity and exercise can help prevent and treat more than 40 chronic diseases — it may delay the onset, it may lessen the severity, but “prevent and treat” seems a bit strong to me. I will agree that physical activity and exercise can enhance health and quality of life, and may even reduce health care costs. As for the “studies have shown that physical activity improves academic achievement; increases confidence and self-esteem; and reduces discipline problems,” why isn’t he citing his sources?

I could see this as being a good thing for schools, if there was also funding for staff tied to the centers and the centers were for all schools. Weight loss is not something that should be tied to the physical activity and exercise either. It should be physical activity and exercise for movement’s sake, for the fun of it, not to meet some arbitrary weight loss goal. Because how many kids are going to keep on with the activity and exercise when they don’t lose weight or meet whatever goal is set for them? Rather, this approach negates the point of the fitness centers, don’t you think?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2012 1:31 pm

    I’m going to do a search for the study that says this was a success, but in the meantime, I was look at this group’s press page and it seriously lists an article from the National Enquirer (PDF) among its press coverage. My faith is restored!


    • September 4, 2012 1:45 pm

      because as we all know the national enquirer is SUCH a hotbed of ethical truthful journalism!

  2. September 4, 2012 2:37 pm

    Okay, so the only two studies I could find that specifically measure the overweight and obesity rates in California come from the Patckwork Study (PDF) from 2005 to 2010, which showed that obesity rates plummeted from 38.44% to 38.00%, respectively. California health organizations claimed that this was proof that California was finally “reversing” obesity rates. Sorry, folks, but that’s hardly a drop when you take the margin of error into consideration.

    The only other research that measures childhood obesity rates on a state-by-state level is the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, but the YRBS does not report California’s results as a state. However, it does measure the results from major cities, and those results are mixed, at best:

    2003 (PDF)
    Overweight (previously defined as “at risk for overweight”):
    Los Angeles: 17.0%
    San Bernadino: 20.6%
    San Diego: 15.7%

    Obese (previously defined as “overweight”):
    Los Angeles: 15.8%
    San Bernadino: 15.4%
    San Diego: 9.6%

    2005 (PDF)
    Overweight (previously defined as “at risk for overweight”):
    Los Angeles: 17.7%
    San Bernadino: 19.7%
    San Diego: 14.3%
    San Francisco: 13.3%

    Obese (previously defined as “overweight”):
    Los Angeles: 16.4%
    San Bernadino: 16.4%
    San Diego: 12.7%
    San Francisco: 10.5%

    2011 (PDF)
    Los Angeles: 16.9%
    San Bernadino: 18.2%
    San Diego: 16.0%
    San Francisco: 11.6%

    Los Angeles: 13.3%
    San Bernadino: 15.2%
    San Diego: 11.4%
    San Francisco: 7.4%

    Those same studies show that the number of students who do not get the recommended amount of daily exercise has increased significantly: Los Angeles from 9.4% to 17.7% in 2003 to 2011, respectively; San Bernadino from 12.5% to 15.5% in 2003 and 2011, respectively; and San Diego from 9.8% to 17.0% in 2003 and 2011, respectively.

    So no, Body by Jake, you haven’t made the impact you claim. But nice try.


    • vesta44 permalink
      September 4, 2012 4:49 pm

      Yeah, all of those “reductions” are well within the margin of error, and the fact that the number of kids who aren’t getting “enough” exercise has almost doubled in eight years could be due to the fact that schools have cut back on phys ed classes because they can’t afford them – not the time for them, and not the teachers for them (and some schools can’t afford the facilities for them either, which is why they don’t have sports teams, they can’t afford a gym/athletic field for the kids to use for sports, let alone the equipment required).

  3. Duckie Graham permalink
    September 4, 2012 3:07 pm

    Why should he cite the numbers when “everybody knows” he’s right?

    • Duckie Graham permalink
      September 4, 2012 3:08 pm

      ok, I don’t know why it didn’t include my note about it in my last message, but in case it wasn’t clear – it should be read with a whole lot of sarcasm.

      • September 4, 2012 6:00 pm

        lol, clear as clear could be Duckie! (At least to me!)

    • fatology101 permalink
      September 4, 2012 6:42 pm

      LOL good one

  4. lifeonfats permalink
    September 4, 2012 4:31 pm

    I work inside a school for special needs kids, ages 3-21. The students there don’t have actual gym class, they walk with teachers and IA’s around the school and outside when the weather is decent, and some ride specially equipped bikes around the school. So I really don’t think a state of the art fitness center is going to work very well here. The physical activities are tailored to the kids’ needs and abilities. A lot of these “anti-obesity experts” forget that some populations of children don’t have the full capability to do the kinds of exercises they think will slim them down.

    I think all this money spent on trying to get kids thin is a waste of money but it’s the crisis du jour right now that’s getting the cash and the publicity, so until they realize that a focus on health, not weight, is more beneficial, money is going to be continued to be spent on programs that don’t do any good. You can’t solve something that’s 75% genetic.

  5. September 4, 2012 5:42 pm

    I don’t know what it is about Georgia educators, but let me word this carefully: the parts of the state that I have been all scream Shithole.

  6. thegoddessishtar permalink
    September 5, 2012 12:26 pm

    Once again we are the last available acceptable target for stigma, shame and manipulation. I guess it’s because we are so big, She said sarcastically. I’m so tired of this being an issue, when it should be a non issue.

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