Healthy Choices for Healthy Children (Part I)

As we mentioned back in November, Dr. Lisa Simpson, director of the Child Policy Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s, recently testified on behalf of the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act that is making its way through the Ohio State House as we speak.

The CPRC and Cincinnati Children’s are members of the coalition that worked collaboratively to support the development of this legislation.

In our first post on the topic, we mentioned some of the statistics that depict the problem. The data indicates an epidemic.

What follows is an excerpt from Dr. Simpson’s testimony:

The Healthy Choices for Healthy Kids Act is the result of rigorous review and analysis of the data on the epidemic and evidence about the effectiveness of various strategies to respond to childhood obesity. It draws upon what has been learned here in Ohio as well as initiatives in many other states throughout the country and internationally.

This legislation will address three of the key areas where we need action:

  1. Get kids moving more and understanding the benefits of physical fitness,
  2. Help them make healthier eating choices, and
  3. Measure our progress!

In other words, the legislation increases physical activity and physical education in schools, improves the nutritional options available to children in the school setting and expands current measurement efforts to collect BMI status of children at school entry in 3rd, 5th and 9th grades statewide.

If passed, the physical education provisions of the bill will require schools to provide 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (exclusive of recess) during the school day in grades K-12, as well as require PE teachers to be certified and licensed as such and it also incorporates a PE performance indicator which requires PE teachers to adhere to content standards approved by the State Board of Education.

We’re sure the dissenters would argue that school PE doesn’t actually increase levels of physical activity or improve physical fitness, they’d probably also add an opinion that time would be better spent in the classroom than running around outside, but the evidence to the contrary couldn’t be clearer.

CDC community guide systematic reviews found that in 14 studies of PE in schools, students’ physical fitness improved. And importantly, these interventions were effective across diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, among boys and girls, elementary and high-school students and in urban and rural settings.

Further, fourteen published studies, analyzing data from approximately 58,000 students, have investigated the link between overall participation in physical activity and academic performance. 11 of those 14 studies found regular participation in physical activity is associated with improved academic performance. Evidence also shows correlations between activity breaks and improved cognitive performance and classroom behavior, as well as links between higher levels of physical fitness and better school attendance and fewer disciplinary problems.

But, despite this evidence, in many schools, budgetary constraints and increasing pressure to improve standardized test scores have caused school officials to question the value of PE and other physical activity programs.

In this bill, the proposed PE requirement would put Ohio in line with 14 other states and less stringent than 13 states, of 35 that mandate required PE units.

Children need exercise, and with this bill, we hope more of them will get the physical activity they need during the school day.

Next time, we’ll break down the nutrition and measurement portions of Healthy Choices for Healthy Children. Stay tuned.

Kate Setter

About the Author: Kate Setter

Kate manages social media at Cincinnati Children's, a role that she loves because it gives her opportunities to help families find stories and pediatric health information that they want and need. Kate is the mother of two elementary-age kiddos.

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