Obesity is a medical condition where an excess amount of weight or body fat is stored in the an individual’s body and can affect his/her health( Yvette Brazier, 2018). The rate of children and adolescents affected by obesity have been constantly increasing and have been proven by a survey done by NCHF( National Center for health statistics) from 2000 to 2016( 13.9% in 2000 to 18.5% in 2016). Several factors can increase the risk of obesity in the younger generation:
- Obesity can pass through several generations by genetics and where a parent suffering from obesity gives birth or raising a child who might suffer from it afterwards.
- The way teenagers live nowadays can also play a major role in the growth of obesity in these ages where having bad diets( Ex: high- fats) and the do not perform physical activities, youngsters also tend to pass most of their times playing video games or in front of the television
- Obesity can also be frequent families having low revenues because they can’t afford to buy quality and healthy food.
- Parents also have a major role in the nutrition of their children as children may have a lack of knowledge and do not know what they are consuming or the effects of their lifestyles.
Since including physical education in the school curriculum, it has been largely been associated with the health status of the students( Michael Gard and Jan Wright, 2001), where physical educator have a major role in helping the students to be healthier but the increase number of children suffering from obesity demonstrate that there is an issue as the results are not as expected.
Children suffering from obesity since their young age can have further complications that can severely affect their health status such as: Diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint problems as they will put more stress on their knees as they are transporting excessive weight and also they could be excluded socially and it can damage the child’s self- esteem and confidence and affecting the good development of their future roles in the society. It is one of the main roles of educators to ensure that their students are in a good physical condition.
From my personal point of view, Obesity is a factor that should be seriously taken into consideration as physical educators have the responsibility of these students in their hands, if one of my obese student got further health complications in relation to obesity, I would be feeling guilty if I did nothing to try to sensitize them because as educators, we have an opportunity to foster for their well being at a very young age as one of the main roles of physical education is to promote healthy learners and prepare them well for their future lives and this comprises that they need to be in a good condition. After a discussion with my peers about the subject, they raised a point that not every schools put emphasis on physical education as they focus only on the academic section,this neglecting the physical health of the students.
Physical educators are one of the main actors in helping the students to correctly face this issue but many of them are not taking this issue seriously and not doing their job correctly resulting in a rise in the rate of obesity in students.
Critical discussion/reflection of the topic
Firstly, on a broader scale, WHO (World Health Organization) stated in a “Survey on the prevalence of diabetes and related risk factors”(2016) that “ 46.8 % of the population of Mauritius is overweight(39.5% concerning males and 53.9% concerning females” and “18.8% of the Mauritian population are obese( 11.8% concerning males and 25.7% concerning females). In other words nearly half of the population are overweight and approximately one fifth of the population are obese and these stats are pretty alarming because people do not carry excess weight after one or two days but over a long period of time, and physical education classes are failing into promoting an active and healthy living in the students’ lives thus the increasing rate of obesity in the population. I will further discuss on the issue through the younger generations in the world and local context.
As stated before, NCHS (National center for health statistics) stated in a survey that the number of children or adolescents suffering from obesity have increased by 4.6 %,( 13.9% to 18.5%) from 2000 to 2016. As they are not being taught about the effects and further complications of being overweight and obese at schools and mainly the importance of doing regular physical activities and adopting good eating habits which are learnt mainly in physical education, thus as students won’t normally understand the complications following this issue, they will continue a having the same sedentary lifestyle and as they finish school, they won’t have time to take care of their health and it will continue to worsen. We can relate this case to our own local context as nearly one fifth (average of one person from five) of our population is obese. Mauritius have an approximate population of 1,221,213 people (WHO Bicnuum Report, 2016/2017, P2) ,so approximately 225, 925 people are obese.
A physical educator as well as any other teachers are must act like role models to their students because they will be the ones teaching values, norms and skills that they will need for their future lives. In Albert Spencer’s article( Physical educator: Role model or Roll the ball out), he quotes a research from Carlson(1995), stating “that one of five students are unhappy with their physical education experience”( Albert Spencer, 1998, P58), first of all because physical educators do not put emphasis of enough meaningful topics where students would be able to critically think, about several causes, consequences and possible solutions for several issues like the growing number of obesity in the young generations. Teachers also put too much emphasis on competitions thus they will be working more with only a small bunch of athletes but the rest of the students including students who are overweight or obese who are normal not very good in doing physical activities will be left apart, these students will normally be given a ball and to go play elsewhere, for example, during my sbe, there is the football intercollege and the teacher had two consecutive periods with a grade 13 class where half of the students where athletes participating in this event and the teacher prepared a training session only for them and the rest of the class were sitting on the side of the field watching the others and 2 among them were between being overweight to obese, and they were bored watching others. Through this I am trying to explain that if now they are having a so bored and negative experience with physical education, the attitude they are developing will only keep on deteriorating in the future and this lack of focus on this topic will keep the rate of obesity to continue rising up and this type of case happens nearly everywhere nowadays.
One major stakeholder in the Ministry of education in collaboration with the World Health Organization(WHO) made a report of the “Global School-Based Students Health(GSHS)” where one of the goal was to “help countries develop priorities, establish programs and advocate for resources for school and youth health programs and policies”( GSHS, 2011, P6). It is stated in this survey that 24 schools in Mauritius participated to this survey and 5 schools in Rodrigues and in Mauritius “21.2% of students are considered as overweight and 6.2% as obese”(GSHS, 2011, P15). This Survey should be the only first step in helping the ministry of Education and the Physical education departments to tackle the growing rate of obesity among the young generations but there weren’t really works following these surveys thus as students won’t be making researches in these topics.
From 2011 to 2014 the Ministry of Education released a National Action Plan On Physical Activity (NAPPA), where one of their main goals was to Prevent the growing rate of obesity by disposing excess calories(Nappa, 2011-2014, p5) and the ministry of education stated that performing physical activities are fundamental to stay in good health and it engages balancing the energy and also to be able to have a better control on the weight thus reducing the risk of NCD(Non Communicable diseases) such as obesity and Diabetes.” This action plan was set in order to get a population which is physically active and to be healthy. Physical educators can work deeper on it where they can tackle the problem when students are still young and making them realize about the dangers of being obese. Several strategic plans on implementing several types of physical activities that will target all the different types of students and increasing the number of participation in each class.
What can be possible solutions that could be applied or adapted to our situation?
First of all, students do not consider physical education as an important subject, thus they do not value the importance of doing physical activities on a regular basis and the consequences of not adopting these practices including mainly obesity, so physical education should be set as a core and compulsory subject where all students need to participate like mathematics, English or French, students will have to attend each classes and the teacher could include several reasons of why should they adapt to a more active and healthy living, the message will be clearer as there will be a higher audience listening and understanding the issue thus giving possibilities to reducing overweight and obesity.
The ministry of education in collaborations with the several physical education departments from all the island should make more workshops and meetings to be talking about increasing number of obesity among the younger generation to explain the students about the causes, consequences, complications and mainly solutions following this issue.
After this physical educators could also perform a health related fitness test every six months or during each trimester including BMI test calculating if students are overweight or obese and keeping a record of each students. By doing this they will be able to track the students’ progress and see if they are on the right track of if their physical condition are declining. The teacher will know where to situate the work depending the where the students are themselves situated. This could be a great way to control the rising amount of obese teenagers.