Junkfood Science: Thinking inside the box again

July 25, 2007

Thinking inside the box again

That didn’t take long. Texas didn’t even wait for the Fitnessgram results to come in before following other states in “doing something about” the numbers of “unfit” children.

Last May, Texas legislators proposed spending up to $8 million to require schools to measure kids’ shapes. The following month, it became law. School children in Texas will now be weighed, measured and tested, with fitness report cards sent home to their parents. These ill-considered reports, as one experienced mother of a recovering anorectic daughter noted, put everything into an “anorexic’s way of seeing the world—only in terms of what burns the most calories.”

As the Cooper Institute, which sells the Fitnessgrams used by growing numbers of state schools around the country, reported, the year after California began using their Fitnessgrams, they increased their state budget in 2006 to $40 million for gym teachers and $500 million for fitness supplies and PE teachers training.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs just announced the launch of “Texas Fitness Now” which will spend $20 million of the Texas state budget for middle-school physical fitness and nutrition programs “in the continued fight against childhood obesity.”

In her press release she said:

The U.S. Surgeon General’s office reports that overweight children have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Texas Fitness Now will help teach kids the importance of physical activity and fitness and lay the foundation for a life of healthy choices and lifestyles as they grow into adulthood....

“This program rewards innovative thinking in the fight against childhood obesity,” said Julie Shields, Texas Association of School Boards’ Assistant Director of Governmental Relations. “... Hopefully, all Texas students will benefit from lessons learned at those schools thinking outside of the box and getting results.”

Texas Fitness Now grants may be used to support and enhance physical education, including buying PE equipment; buying equipment to track students’ progress, such as heart monitors and pedometers; selecting or developing an effective physical education curriculum and instructional materials; and training teachers and school administrators to help their students become fit and adopt healthy lifestyles. Schools must use at least 25 percent of the funds for nutrition education....

“We believe we will see measurable, positive results from incorporating more activity into the school day and teaching students to make healthier choices,” Combs said.

Beliefs, not quality scientific evidence, are behind yet another costly childhood obesity initiative. There is no evidence to suspect its results will be any different than countless others.

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