November 28 2011

Dr. Oz to Cure Childhood Obesity

Julie Gunlock

Celebrity physician and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz (of “apple juice will kill you fame) appeared on the MSNBC show Morning Joe this morning to promote HealthCore--a foundation he and his wife started a few years ago.  Using the Peace Corps model of dispatching young Americans to developing nations, HealthCore sends young college student into this nation's schools to teach kids about good nutrition.  According to HealthCore’s website, the organization’s three priorities are to educate students about their bodies and nutrition, create a “fit town” through community events, and advocate for putting health and physical educations classes back into school’s core curriculum. 

I don’t have a problem with this type of organization.  There’s nothing wrong with encouraging good eating habits and proper nutrition.  However, I hope someone points out to these young, idealistic  HealthCore workers that while these efforts are well intended, they simply won't work to bring down this country’s childhood obesity rates.

Why?  Because kids need strong parents, not school programs and eager volunteers telling them about why salad is important to a growing body.

Dr. Oz was at his typical dramatic best on Morning Joe--arms flailing in the air and yelling about how schools are key to reducing America’s childhood obesity rates.  Of course, Dr. Oz knows this isn't true. He knows schools have very little to do with how a child learns about food and nutrition.  It must just be easier (and much more politically correct) to blame a brick building for this country's high obesity rates, rather than the real culprit—negligent parents. 

A child becomes obese for a variety of reasons.  Some children are genetically predisposed to being heavy.  Some children suffer from diseases that causes them to become obese as they grow.  But these are the outliers.  Most children become obese because they watch too much television, live sedentary lives, fail to get enough sleep at night, and eat food that isn't good for them.  Who is to blame for those bad habits?  Is it the kid? Is it the teachers? The schools and school administrators?

I wish Dr. Oz, would review the latest reseach on childhood obesity which states that really there are only three things that help kids get and stay healthy--strong parents.  Parents who turn the television off and put them to bed at a reasonble hour and parents who try, at least five times a week, to sit down and have a family meal.

School-based programs like Dr. Oz sound nice.  But if we really want to reduce childhood obesity, we should be talking to parents, not kids.

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