FRC News

FRC promotes kids' obesity prevention and health initiatives

5/1/2014  8:00 am

FRC Director Barbara Fiese delivered the keynote address at the seventh annual Illinois School Wellness conference in Champaign April 30, 2014. Her talk addressed children’s obesity prevention and well-being research and how it positively impacts families, schools, and communities.

In her talk, Fiese noted that poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle are two contributing factors to the obesity epidemic. For example, some American children are consuming more calories than they need as early as infancy, and not surprisingly, as they grow older, nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables are not part of their regular diet.

In addition, only 11 percent of pre-school children engage in moderate- to vigorous-physical activity, while 1/3 of them have a tv in their bedroom. Two thirds of older children watch more than two hours of tv or video each day.

Adequate sleep is another important factor in fighting obesity, and it contributes to better academic performance and fewer behavior problems in school. According to Fiese, less than 1/3 of American teens are getting the recommended eight or more hours of sleep each night.

Fiese and her co-presenter, Lauren Raines, an Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program graduate student, described several U of I research projects that have partnered with local schools and the community. The Sprouts-Growing Healthy Habits interactive curriculum teaches kindergarten students about cooking and eating family meals, shopping for healthy foods, trying new foods, healthy sleep habits, and exercise.

Currently, Booker T. Washington school in Champaign has adopted the Sprouts curriculum and is an active partner in the research program. Ultimately, the FRC aims to disseminate the curriculum and teacher guides to more schools.

The Fitness Improves Thinking in Kids (FITKids) research project examines the role physical activity plays in children’s cognitive health. The project’s after-school component provides local children with the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day, while generating important data about the positive effects of exercise. The project is led by Kinesiology & Community Health Professor Chuck Hillman, an FRC affiliate faculty member.

The School Wellness conference was sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Action for Healthy Kids.