In the past two decades, the rates of child obesity have significantly increased in Alaska. Records provided by the State of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control in 2017 show that, 17% of Alaskan children are overweight, while 14% of them are obese. Some of the factors that have contributed to high rates of obesity include lack of physical activity, lack of supportive environments, and unhealthy eating (State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program, 2017). Research shows that 90% of children do not consume at least two fruit, and three vegetable servings, every day. It does show thought that 46% of these children drink one or more sugary drinks daily.
Concerning physical activity, 79% of children in Alaska do not engage in at least one hour of physical activity. 57% lack physical education skills because they do not attend classes, while 53% waste over 3 hours per day watching TV on school days. Although schools are taking steps towards reducing obesity among children, most of the schools still lag behind. Only 10% of schools offer subsidized prices for healthy food and drinks, while 75% allow unhealthy foods to be sold within the school.
The political climate around this issue is worrisome nationwide. People have acknowledged that childhood obesity is an issue that needs addressing, but have yet to put a strong enough effort behind it to make an impact, as shown by the CDC’s results on childhood obesity continuing to increase. As a result of the shortcomings identified in the Alaska school system, the Alaska State Legislature has enacted further school policies that will help to reduce the levels of obesity among children. For instance, the Department of Health and Social Services can require the school districts to conduct physical examinations by a licensed physicians when it is considered necessary, at the expense of the State. AS 14.30.070 (The Alaska State Legislature, 2018). Another example being the adventure-based education programs, which help to reduce the levels of obesity among children through activity. High school students, as well as juvenile offenders, are exposed to skills in hiking, swimming, first-aid, camping, and firefighting. These activities are important life skills, but also get the children to engage in physical activity during learning.
Highlighting What Is Done Well In the Policy Document
The policy document highlights all the possible challenges that affect healthy body weight among children in Alaska. The policy document also provides all necessary actions that schools, parents, and children can take to improve healthy eating and healthy weight among children. One of the parts that is well written in the analysis and discussion part is in regards to what parents should do to promote healthy eating and reduce this risk of obesity in their children. (State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program, 2017). One of the strongest points is that parents should support healthy initiatives such as cooking competitions, which will help children to learn about healthy foods and how they are prepared. Parents should also promote walks, dances, biking, and skating activities, which will help children to keep physically fit. By joining various committees, parents can help to enact and campaign for better policies that will help improve health behaviors among groups of children.
Another part that is well explained is what the schools need to do to reduce child obesity. First, the document recommends that schools should expand the graduation requirements to include more credits for both physical education and health programs. Second, that schools should implement the Alaska’s Physical Activity in Schools Law. They show it is an essential program, as it will raise the opportunities for physical activities in schools, which means that children will have a wide range of activities that they can engage in. (State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program, 2017). Third, the document emphasizes that schools should ensure all the foods and drinks found or advertised within the school premises, be healthy and nutritious. Then encourages staff members to attend the School Health and Wellness Institute in order to be better advocates. Lastly, it encourages schools to increase the frequency, as well as the duration of, opportunities for physical education.
Identifying Areas of Strength and Areas that Need Additional Development
The paper details significant information that shows the overall health status of children in Alaska. However, the document makes four assertations that need additional development. First, the document recommends that children should be encouraged to reduce their non-academic screen time to about 2 hours or less every day, so that they can engage in more physical activities. Second, the document recommends that children should increase their time for physical activities to over 1 hour. Third, they should reduce their sugar intake. Lastly, that children should increase their fruit and vegetable intake.
While these points are valid, they alone are not effective without close supervision from parents and teachers. Children are not fully aware of what’s at stake, and will not understand why these initiatives are crucial. The document should give examples or assistance focused on what the school and the parents should do to assist children in doing what is expected of them. Like how a reward system could be established to encourage children, or how to structure a system for an active after-school time.
Another area that needs improvement is the statistics that have been given in this document. All the numerical data is given in terms of percentages and pie charts. For instance, the document says that 79% of the children are not active, 53% take sugary drinks, 90% do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables, and only 10% of the schools have raised the prices for unhealthy food and beverages. From the pie chart, 17% of the children are overweight, 14% are obese, 2% are underweight, and 67% are healthy in Alaska High School. The problem with graphical representation, as well as data represented in percentages, is that it does not give a clear picture of the actual numbers. Actual numbers help people, including policymakers, to have a clear picture as they can analyze the number faster in terms of hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands.
Understanding the Context of What Went Into this Policy and How Those “Ingredients” Affect Its Likely Outcomes
Due to the increasing cases of obesity in Alaska, the enacted policies will help to control and shape the education system in a way that helps to reduce child obesity. What’s great about policy is that it is not isolated to only a certain school district. This Statewide policy will work to ensure that all the governing bodies have adopted written goals that concern their local jurisdiction. This means that all the policies and regulations adopted must be enacted at the local levels. Each area in the state government-funded educational system will need to start and lead a program in wellbeing instruction for kindergarten through 12th grade. The program ought to incorporate guidance in physical wellbeing and individual security, including liquor and medication misuse training, cardiopulmonary revival (CPR), early malignancy counteractive action and recognition, dental wellbeing, family wellbeing, including newborn childcare, and natural wellbeing. The enactment of these policies will ensure that schools adopt the applicable educational ciriculum that enable students to live a healthy lifestyle, and that is standard across the state.
- State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program (2017). Alaska Obesity Facts: School Policies & Practices Impacting Childhood Obesity. http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Documents/Obesity/pubs/factsheet_SchoolPolicyAndPractices.pdf
- The Alaska State Legislature, (2018). 31st Legislature(2019-2020), Alaska Statutes 2018. http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/statutes.asp#14.17.490