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Journal Issue: Childhood Obesity Volume 16 Number 1 Spring 2006

The Role of Schools in Obesity Prevention
Mary Story Karen M. Kaphingst Simone French


Research consistently shows that the diets of most U.S. children fail to meet national nutrition guidelines. Nor do most U.S. children get the recommended levels of daily physical activity. As a result, today a larger share of the nation's children is overweight than at any time in history. The prevalence of obesity, having increased dramatically over the past forty years, now threatens the immediate and long-term health of children and youth.

With more than 54 million children in attendance daily, the nations' schools offer many opportunities for developing strategies to prevent childhood obesity. Children spend roughly a third of every weekday in school. While they are there, they can consume up to two meals, sometimes even three, plus snacks. They have many different avenues for recreation and physical activity. They also take courses in health education and receive health services of various kinds at school. If schools can work together with policymakers, advocates, parents, and communities to create an environment where children eat healthfully, become physically fit, and develop lifelong habits that contribute to wellness, the nation will be well on its way to preventing obesity.