Changing our behavior to change our health

Beacon 9

 

Brian Anderson, Contributing Writer

Health is a number one priority for many Americans.  One issue of great significance is obesity—especially as it relates to children.  According to the American Dietetic Association, 25 percent of children in the US are overweight and 11 percent are obese.

 

Of equal concern are adolescents.  Seventy percent of obese adolescents grow up to be obese adults.

 

This is a viable public health issue.

 

To combat the childhood obesity epidemic, first lady Michelle Obama has implemented her “Let’s Move” initiative.  Like issues addressed by other first ladies—such as Nancy Reagan’s JUST SAY NO campaign, Ms. Obama is tackling an issue which has reached epidemic proportions.  Through this comprehensive initiative, giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support health choices target the epidemic.

 

The 5 pillars of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative are:

1) creating a health start for children

2) empowering parents and caregivers

3) providing health foods in schools

4) improving access to healthy, affordable foods

5) increasing physical activity.

 

From a public health perspective, the root of change is behavior.

 

If these behaviors are not controlled early, this behavior will continue into adulthood and lead to more serious issues such as hyperglycemia, hypertension, abnormal glucose levels, infertility and other cardiovascular and digestive diseases and complications.  For children, psychological issues such as depression are imminent.

 

Nutrition is a pivotal issue for college-age students as well.

 

I recall as a freshman at the University of Maryland, I was just another victim of the “freshman 15,” the acronym given to freshmen in college gaining 15 pounds the first year of college.

 

According to Dr. Fatma Ercanli Huffman of the College of Dietetics and Nutrition in the School of Public Health and Social Work, the effects of obesity on children and adolescents are more devastating due to the incidence of Type II diabetes in this at-risk population.

 

With regard to college-age students, Dr. Huffman points out sedentary lifestyles and stress as major factors.  Consumption of unhealthy foods in the diet such as soft drinks, fast foods and junk foods (candy bars, chips, sugary drinks) also contributes to obesity.

 

To combat obesity, Dr. Huffman recommends keeping a log of activity and foods eaten on a daily basis.  When a balance is kept, a healthy weight can be maintained.

 

In addition, awareness and education are key components.

 

According to Dr. Huffman, nutrition education must be core requirements for FIU and other college students.

 

Dr. Rashida Biggs, a professor in the School of Public Health and Social Work, also agrees.

According to Dr. Biggs, the major issue with college students is a sedentary lifestyle.

 

She believes portion control and awareness are essential to combat obesity.  In addition, more incentive fitness campaigns should be offered and heavily advertised.

 

For students who are interested in learning more about nutrition, the College of Dietetics and Nutrition offers two courses which are key to learning the foundations of proper nutrition and health:  HUN 2000 FOUNDATIONS OF NUTRITION (also meets UCC for science) and HUN 2201 PRINCIPLES OF NUTRITION.

 

These courses are offered each semester, including nights and summers.  These courses have no prerequisite requirements and can be registered by any college student.

Obesity is an important issue, not just for children but also for adults.  College students are not exempt either.

 

In order to combat this issue, proper education and lifestyle changes are a must.  The earlier we start with these lifestyle changes, the healthier our population will be.