Childhood Obesity: Reversing the Trend

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:


2. Persona and POV statement Persona:

Persona and POV statement


Persona name:  Billy Cantor

Age: 12

School/occupation: Middle school student

Location:   Troy, Michigan

Quote:   “I wish I could see my parents more but they are always busy”


  • Spends majority of time on electronic devices

  • Suffers from sleep apnea, is 5”3 and 160 lbs

  • Go-to snack after school is chicken nuggets and ranch, lots of ranch

  • Both parents work a lot


  • Wants better sleep

  • Make parents “proud”: grades, make the basketball or football team

  • Wishes he didn’t feel nauseous in the morning and after eating

  • Feel good about self image

  • POV Statement:

  • User: Billy is a well-meaning, kind hearted student who has attention and performance issues during school

  • Need: Needs to feel fulfilled

  • Insight: from the lacking attention he receives from his parents and self-perpetuating cycle of using food as an outlet, lowering self-image, and seeking food again.


3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.


Implement school-wide recognition programs that identify students who are at risk of developing health issues from excessive weight. This solution is a light-impact pressure to parents and will reinforce better decision making.


Government or school-sponsored after-school activities that do not have barriers-to-entry. For example, building better exercise facilities and equipping them with trainers who are well-versed in biomechanics and health can work with students to improve their health.


Provide more comprehensive mental health and psychiatric services for individuals using food as a release to deal with their lives. Most schools are not equipped well enough in this manner and doing so will help to solve the "real" addiction problem.


Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

Students suffering from obesity will, with better health, be able to gain more control over their lives and improve their outcomes, create a better environment for others, and achieve success by improving quality of life and decreasing mortality rates in the future.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

General background in health and fitness, experience speaking with those who suffer from obesity, and health professionals with involvement in creating change.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

My service activity has given me perspective; while it isn't directly related, the cause of literacy issues, attrition, or graduation rates may be similar to obesity issues especially within the same community. I realize that the problem is bigger than the symptom- while being at risk or suffering from obesity is clearly a big issue in itself, looking at the overall issues can make a tremendous change; or, solving the obesity issue may help the bigger problem seem easier to deal with for those who are suffering.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).


After speaking with Michael Fahy I was referred to Jill Castle; I knew Jill Castle, author of The Nourished Child blogs, was busy and while I was not able to speak at length with her, tried to focus my question on initiatives schools and successful legislature had and their success, and general observations. While she did not comment on the successful legislature she had seen, I did get a comment that parental involvement and working on the psychological element of children would be more promising in terms of lasting impact. This was likely from her background as a dietician and having observed what worked for lasting long-term dietary solutions.


At the WSN health panel the question I asked was “What relationship do you see with mental health and weight concerns, and what initiatives could be implemented to help improve outcomes?” I got an answer from a nutritionist who ran her own business (I did not think to write down all the panelists name’s at the time) who said that she actually turned her work into working on the mental health aspect of weight-loss because it turned out to be the most effective way for clients to deal with the difficulties in dieting; it defined the reason weight loss was a goal, and helped keep themselves accountable and consistent with their long-term vision of who they wanted to be. The other person who answered was a CAPS counselor for UM and took the answer in an interesting direction; part of his answer referenced disorders like bulimia and anorexia which aren't necessarily relevant to my issue, but followed up that obesity, while all these issues were complicated, could be considered a similar indicator of broader mental health concerns with body image, food, and self-esteem having a negative relationship with eachother.


While volunteering I was discussing my proposal with a fellow volunteer (who does not want to be named in case others recognize him) and he opened up about struggling with obesity as a child. I wanted to know what caused his habits and what inspired the change; he told me that growing up, he often ate foods with simple carbs and sugar because they were "cheap and easy" and his parents would answer whenever he asked why they ate like that. Things like Pop-Tarts, Doritoes, and high-sugar beverages were plentiful in his household. As he reflects, he realizes that the cost of those items added up significantly for his family of five. I was curious at which point his motivations changed, and he emphasized that he always knew he was much heavier than his friends and was insecure about his image as a result. But it wasn't until middle school, when the friends he rode the bus with, stopped going on the after-school bus (because they had practice of some kind) and instead went home later after practice. He saw them getting away from him and he started to resent the food he was given at home and drastically reduced his food intake, refusing most food, and started exercising on his own. His P.E. teacher noticed the change in weight and started helping him have a healthier approach to food. He made the basketball team the next year and the consistent practices, the weight training the years after that, and learning more about nutrition on his own helped him change his body composition and have a healthy relationship with food. I asked about what resources the school had that helped him, and the immediate answer was the P.E coach with whom he could talk to, trusted, and looked forward to showing improvements.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

I got advice from Stefan Santrach for my propsal- this included making my character feel more "real" and have his issues explained more in-depth. Additionally, he identified a big problem in one of my proposed solution- that identifying and reaching out to those who suffer from obesity and tracking them may have negative repercussions in the way that particular process is interpreted. Finally, he emphasized highly the importance of a solution that had potential to be turned into law while mine were a bit broad and this prompted me to think further about very specific guidelines that could be passed.


Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

In figuring out the final solution, I needed to understand the problem in its entirety. I knew from my background that the process of weight change was a very simple equation of energy balance with intake and expenditure, and that obesity is a problem of consuming over expenditure too much, for too extended a period of time. So I wanted to explore other factors that could contribute and complicate the issue. I looked at NCBI, the National Center for Biochemistry Information, a place that published peer-reviewed literature and often has great studies. I found a great piece outlining multifactored analysis of obesity contributors. I also started on the MSC website itself, and reflected over past posts and discussions that reflected childhood obesity; I got a lot of perspective from the posts, and got a good idea of different dimensions in the problem. One such problem was food deserts, and I kept this issue in the back of my mind because it made sense that some of the same underlying issues that create food deserts could impact obesity rates in the exact same community. I knew that I should consider looking at socioeconomic, cultural, psychological, and other influential factors. As I went to the WSN town hall, I got to understanding the psychological element of obesity and why it can be caused by mental health issues. I knew I had what I needed in terms of background knowledge on the issue, but when I created my initial three solutions I felt that there was something missing- the feedback I got from others affirmed this as well; there are more than enough solutions that could be impactful, but the real problem is at the point of contact to the individual students and figuring out how to influence their decisions. Could educating parents be the right step in the direction? As I reflected more I realized that the parents decisions were some of the biggest decisions for the kid. I concluded that my initial proposed three solutions maybe could work, but would have difficulty being implemented and targeting and influencing parents would be a great way to tackle the problem. Ultimately, this is where I ended up.


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.


Implications of unhealthy body composition and excessive fat that results in obesity, create sleep issues like sleep apnea that decrease health, wellness, and productivity.

WHEREAS... obesity increases risk of all cause mortality, making it more likely for deaths to occur among those with obesity


WHEREAS... 1 in 5 children are obese, and 1 in 3 are overweight

WHEREAS... the trend in obese children and obese general population in the United States is upward and creates massive costs in health treatment

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).



1. By the State government creating a childhood obesity epidemic subcommittee under the “Education” committee who would create an education seminar that is mandatory as part of school orientation, once a year, required for both parents and students

2. This seminar would be led by a panel of existing school professionals who have the expertise to inform and spread advice on the issue (health and physical education teachers, with school counselors) to outline the reasons obesity occurs, how healthy habits can be created, and what the implications of good health are on education and life outcomes.

3. Representatives from different clubs that promote activity and wellness could join as well as inviting the city recreational or civic center, and local organizations that parents could sign their kids up for would help create an environment that better habits are promoted. This ensures all communities, regardless of income bracket, would have some amount of organizations present to support increased activity.

4. A comprehensive statewide informational handout on obesity prevention created by the childhood obesity subcommittee that goes over guidelines for proper health, the importance of calorie balance, health risks of obesity, and benefits of healthy living all in one easily accessible document, optionally printed as required material for children in public schools (at the discretion of local superintendent and principals) and available online for reference to everyone. This should be preceded by a pictograph or engaging short visual representation and summary of the problem, or at greater expense a video that could be played that summarizes the issue and is easily distributable to create the general sense of the problem. 

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. One education session that essentially informs on the issue is not going to make a significant impact- what will actually compel individuals to make a change?

2. Such an initiative takes away valuable time from administrators and school professionals.

3. The fundamental responsibility of taking care of a child and their health is with the parent, not the state.

Costs and funding:

With costs being a large consideration in the structure of my solution, I have decided to structure the proposal such that there are requirements to discuss the material and create a seminar but no requirements as to the minimum number of professionals used, organizations involved, extra planning, etc. This way, the difference in hours used by administrators and staff can be at the discretion of local superintendents and principals but the base minimum is still a significant impact. At the individual school level, the costs to administer this seminar would be, at the minimum, the time it takes to set up and the time spent by professionals giving the seminar. The location of the seminar would be in the gymnasium or auditorium with at least one speaker, requiring at most 20 hours of setup, administration, and actual seminar work.

The majority of the cost comes in the planning and structure of material required, and the education handout. The handout should not be overly long so as to deter reading it, but be intensive enough and have enough sections to answer basic questions. The structure should follow a infographic with a table of contents on the different main topics resulting in a 50-100 page document which, according to PropLibrary, can take 2-4 people several days to draft and additional weeks to to review. The cost of this would likely, assuming 300 hours (30 days, 10 hours a day) to create with seven people working on it, be 2100 hours of work. At an average salary of $71,685 for a standard 2000 hour year for a Michigan legislator, the setup cost of the seminar and educational material would be $75,270. This should but does not include the average of potential health consultants (who average $50-150 an hour, and basic administrative work that is $12-20 an hour), so should be doubled to provide a margin of safety in dollar allocation to the project to $150,540. This amount can be paid for by additional tax revenues including but not limited to: increased property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, issuance of bonds to the public. Because this is a somewhat specific focus within the government, maybe issuing bonds would make the most sense to fund this initiative. Funding the cost of this proposal can make a material impact as the increased productivity of the workforce and decreased lifetime health costs that come from the initiative improve the state economy.



Story M, Neumark-stainzer D, French S. Individual and environmental influences on adolescent eating behaviours. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102:S40–51

Chapman G, Maclean H. “Junk food” and “healthy food”: Meanings of food in adolescent women's culture. J Nutr Educ Behav. 1993;25:108–13.

Dublin: Department of Health and Children; 2005. Department of Health and Children. Obesity: The policy challenges: The report of the national taskforce on obesity.

Budd GM, Hayman LL. Addressing the childhood obesity crisis. Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2008;33:113–7.


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Total votes: 19