Children cannot weight

There is evidence now that clearly demonstrates the correlation between healthy school environments and academic success.

by Cary Bailen — 

Children cannot “weight” — and neither can we. Although new initiatives and funds are being given to Public Health and other Arizona state agencies from federally funded grants, our schools are still suffering.

Arizona schools keep our children for 7 to 10 hours a day, yet they are struggling to get the financial support they need to provide nutritious meals, proper health education and time set aside for physical activity in order to ensure that the obesity epidemic is a thing of the past.

While reading, writing and math are certainly crucial to a child’s school experience, none of these matters if students are missing classes because of trips to the nurse’s office or are absent from school because they are home sick. Severely overweight children miss four times as much school as normal weight kids and often suffer from depression, anxiety and isolation from their peers.

Absenteeism is directly linked to academic performance. A 2004 study in Texas found that the higher the attendance rate in a given district (with all other things being equal), the higher the district’s pass rate will be on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

There is evidence now that clearly demonstrates the correlation between healthy school environments and academic success. Research shows that properly nourished and fit students are better able to concentrate on their work, attend school on a regular basis and perform well in class and on tests. Simply put, academic performance goals are better achieved when the students and staff are well nourished and physically active. While children’s health is not solely dependent on their school, schools can make a significant impact by creating an environment that fosters healthy behaviors.

School administrators may think they cannot afford to add more to their already squeezed budgets, but really, they cannot afford to not help their students and staff members become healthier.

Absenteeism that is a result of health issues related to childhood obesity could lead to a potential loss in state aid of $95,000 per year in an average-size school district in Texas, and $160,000 per year in an average California school district. The loss in state funding for large cities could be much higher.

For example, New York City could lose about $28 million each year, while Chicago could forfeit an estimated $9 million and Los Angeles an estimated $15 million. (Reference from: Action for Healthy Kids. The learning connection: the value of improving nutrition and physical activity in our schools 2004.)

What can you do?

Become a part of your child’s school PTO/PTA, site council or, most importantly, its wellness council. Become familiar with the wellness policies that are mandated by every school or district. Find out what other support systems are available in Arizona and get involved. As a state, we are 27th in the country in childhood obesity.

No school-aged child should ever have to deal with obesity and the myriad chronic medical conditions that are associated with it, including asthma, joint problems, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression/anxiety and sleep apnea — to name but a few. Please do not turn your back on this pressing issue, and do what you can to help bring about change.


Cary Bailen is president of Kidz for Life, Inc. 602-751-0012, or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 5, October/November 2011.

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