Taking Charge of
Poor nutrition and physical inactivity
are threatening our students’ futures.
Will schools meet the challenge?
David Satcher While serving as U.S. surgeon general in 2001, I released The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity (Office of the Surgeon General, 2001). This report concluded that the
sharp increase in the rate of overweight and obesity between
1980 and 2000 had touched all ethnic groups and threatened
to become the leading cause of preventable death in the
Because of schools’ unique ability to open doors of opportunity for all youngsters, regardless of their their socioeconomic backgrounds or ethnicity, educators have an essential
role to play in advancing student health and preventing childhood obesity. If we want all our children to have an equal
chance to succeed in school and in life, our schools must not
only promote academic achievement but also help students
develop habits of healthy eating and physical activity.
An Unhealthy Start to the 21st Century
More than 30 percent of children ages 2–19 in the United
States are overweight or obese (Ogden, Carroll, & Flegal,
2008). 1 In the past three decades, this rate has doubled
among U.S. preschool and adolescent children and tripled
among 6- to 11-year-olds (Centers for Disease Control and
Regardless of race and socioeconomic status, overweight
children are more likely to become overweight adults
(Whitaker, Wright, Pepe, Seidel, & Dietz, 1997). This is not a
cosmetic issue, but a serious health threat. Overweight individuals are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular
disease, diabetes, and certain cancers (Freedman, Mei, Srinivasan, Berenson, & Dietz, 2007).
© SUSIE FITZHUGH
Unfortunately, both adults and children increasingly overeat
and eat the wrong foods. Trends contributing to obesity
include more restaurant dining and the proliferation of
microwaves and processed foods (Levi, Vinter, Richardson, St.
Laurent, & Segal, 2009). According to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, few school-age children eat well, consuming the