Designing Schools to Help Prevent Obesity

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April 3, 2013
By Mari Nicholson
Designing Schools to Help Prevent Obesity

A new video from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – a partner of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) – highlights an innovative approach to obesity prevention that encompasses architecture, schools, and science.

Creating school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity among children is a recommended national strategy to prevent childhood obesity, and is shown to have positive effects on student behavior, development, and academic performance.

To help children learn life-long healthy eating habits, researchers developed the Healthy Eating Design Guidelines for School Architecture. These guidelines provide practitioners in architecture and public health, as well as school system administrators, with a practical set of spatially organized and theory-based strategies for making school environments more conducive to learning about and practicing healthy eating behaviors.

“The entire building is a classroom,” said the project’s Dr. Matthew J. Trowbridge, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Every aspect of the school architecture — the furniture, color pallet, and materials — was designed to promote healthy behaviors. This project is the first of its kind and represents a brand new way of thinking about childhood obesity prevention.

“A kid is a kinetic, excited entity, and many of the design decisions that have been implemented here, including all the way down to the furniture choices are meant to let the child move,” said Trowbridge, a major contributor to NCCOR’s green health activities.

As the video below details, the Healthy Eating Design Guidelines were implemented in a pilot project at Buckingham Elementary School in Dillwyn, Va. The project focused on using the design of the school building itself to promote healthy behaviors and long-term attitudes of healthy eating and physical activity.

For more information about the Healthy Eating Design Guidelines and the school project at Buckingham, read the article published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

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About the author

Mari Nicholson partners with The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR), which brings together four of the nation's leading research funders - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and application of childhood obesity research and to decrease childhood obesity through enhanced coordination and collaboration.

Comments

I do think that this does back up the need for further action when it comes to these issues. In fact, we are already seeing some pretty big steps being made in the area. For instance, did you know that there is now an obesity predictor that has been made available to parents? It is basically a calculator which will assess a child's risk of being obese later in life based on a number of genetic and environmental factors specific to that child. If you haven't yet heard about this then I suggest checking out this article: http://www.clinicaltrialsgps.com/news/free-obesity-predictor-for-children/

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