Childhood Obesity

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

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

Our Informational Pamphlet: Childhood Obesity in Michigan

2. Persona and POV statement Persona:

  Persona name: Emily Smith   Age: 45 years old    School/occupation: Stay at home mother of two, Henry (11 y/o) and Abby (13 y/o)   Location: Ann Arbor, MI   Quote: "Hurry up kids, I don't want to be late!"   About
  • Active PTA member at Tappan Middle School
  • Husband's time is consumed with the opening of his new local Italian restaurant
  • Spends most of her days exercising and running carpool
Goals:
  • Provide Henry and Abby with a healthy lifestyle
  • Eventually go back to teaching Elementary School once Henry is old enough
  • Become President of the PTA

 

POV Statement:
  • UserEmily, active PTA member and active mother of two...
  • Need...needs to find a way to engage her precious children in healthier lifestyles...
  • Insight...because her kids' school does not provide them with sufficient health-related resources such as proper nutrition in the cafeteria and informative health/P.E. classes.
 

 

3. Potential Solutions:

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

SOLUTION 1: Required Health Curriculum

Implement a mandatory health curriculum at public schools, in which students learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits. This implementation would not take away from other important health issues, but would add to the strength of overall health class curriculums with the goal to catalyze healthy lifestyles in Michigan youth at a young age. 

SOLUTION 2: P.E. Requirement

Require all public schools to have recess and/or P.E. classes for every grade K-12. The generic structure of P.E. courses would be the same, but individual school systems will have the liberty to tackle the main course requirements in ways they see fit.

SOLUTION 3: Optional Lunch Plan

Optional lunch plan provided by the school that consists of healthier, organic lunches that parents can sign their children up to receive for an additional fee. This program could consist of a farm-to-table program.

SOLUTION 4: Michigan Health & Wellness Day

Required state-wide annual health and wellness day. The day will be split into two parts: education and exercise. This will occur once a year at both middle schools and elementary schools here in Michigan. Educational resources and exercise routines will be provided by an outside program similar to 'Project Healthy Schools'; these will enable teachers who already work at the school to provide teaching instruction on the day of, so that the schools will not have to spend money hiring an outside educator. 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

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

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2017-2018/billintroduced/Senate/pdf/2017-SIB-0081.pdf

This bill demonstrates details the required courses for Michigan public schools. The required courses include math, science, reading, history, geography, economics, American government, and writing. We found this bill notable because it does not include health education in the requirements. This omission demonstrates how the Michigan public school system does not prioritize health. We believe that this can be a contribution to the childhood obesity epidemic in the state.

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:

This proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, as we are hoping to set up a required health curriculum in all schools beginning in elementary school that will teach students about nutrition and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. This will not only immediately benefit their well-being as they learn how to eat and exercise properly, but also help set them up to live healthier lives in the long run, hopefully helping prevent possible health-related issues such as obesity in their future. By implementing this health program, students all over the state from different socioeconomic statuses and other varying demographic characteristics will receive equal health education in order to fight childhood obesity. Consequently, we hope to decrease lifelong obesity and the health risks and social issues that come with that kind of struggle.

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

Beginning in elementary school, both of us can recall being introduced to food pyramids and learning what it means to eat healthily. As our education progressed, health classes informed us and our peers on the importance of nutritious, balanced eating and proper exercise with the intention of providing students with the necessary tools to execute healthy lifestyles and avoid negative health consequences. While researching and discussing the topic of childhood obesity for our proposal, we discovered that our educational experiences and their emphasis on health education regarding nutrition and exercise are not so typical.

Additionally, we were inspired by two discussion posts on the Caucus website. First, a discussion item created by Austin Gould about obesity provided us with shocking statistics. We learned that Michigan ranked 16th in the nation for obesity. This was extremely intriguing and we consequently researched the health consequences of obesity and what is being done about it. The second discussion post that pushed our proposal in the health/food direction was a provocation created by Michael Fahy about “food deserts” in Michigan. Neither of us had heard about this concept and the idea that people do not have access to healthy food was absolutely shocking and disappointing to us. That being said, this paved the way for our decision to go ahead with the topic of obesity for our proposal. We were then able to narrow down our proposal topic to focus on obesity and children.

Both posts, along with our prior knowledge on obesity and its connotation and prevalence in the U.S. fueled our passion to help solve the issue of childhood obesity.

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

Volunteering at Food Gatherers has made us think hard about access to food and health. Food gatherers aims to eliminate hunger and its causes. According to their website, they currently have over 7,000 volunteers. The program believes that food is a basic human right and its mission is to help their community have proper access to this right. Subsequently, we began to think about youth and Michigan and whether or not they are properly receiving this right to food. Specifically, healthy food. Volunteering at Food Gatherers and analyzing their mission provided us with insight into how a lack of information regarding healthy food or simply a lack of healthy food itself in schools (where adolescents spend a majority of their time) can affect and perpetuate major problems in Michigan such as childhood obesity.

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

Our Informational Pamphlet: Childhood Obesity in Michigan

Consultations

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.).

CONSULTATION 1: Ashley Mantha

For one of our consultations, we spoke to Ms. Ashley Mantha, one of the two Health/Physical Education teachers at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor. She was very helpful, informing us that students at Tappan Middle School only take health classes for one semester while in middle school, during 7th grade. She told us about the four main units she teaches throughout the semester, which are Physical Health & Nutrition, Mental & Emotional Health, Substance Abuse Awareness, and Human Sexuality & Reproductive Health. She informed us that these guidelines for her course are set forth by the state and that she must follow the national standards for health education. When asked which unit she spent the least time on, she told us that she definitely spent the least time on the Physical Health & Nutrition unit. She sent us some copies of homework assignments she gives to her students, such as a food log and filling out a food pyramid. When asked if she spoke about obesity, she said they don't speak about it directly, but stress the importance of working out and eating balanced meals to be healthy. 

CONSULTATION 2: Jeff Gaynor

We spoke with the trustee/secretary of the Ann Arbor Board of Education, Jeff Gaynor, to gain a better understanding about what programs and teaching efforts are currently in place in middle schools to combat obesity. Gaynor is also a former teacher at Clague Middle Schools, so he was able to provide us with authentic insight. He informed us that Project Healthy Schools has conducted a viable 10-week program in their sixth-grade classrooms across the district. PHS started at Clague over a dozen years ago. Additionally, Jeff told us that nutrition and healthy lifestyles in an issue discussed in their health and P.E. classes. Finally, he told us that their lunch program claims to address the issue of obesity with its Farm to Table program, but there are mixed reports on the nutritional value of school lunches.

CONSULTATION 3: Jean DuRussel-Weston

After speaking with Jeff Gaynor, we researched Project Healthy Schools and eventually spoke over the phone with its program manager, Jean DuRussel-Weston. Jean believes that the younger children are when they learn about health and wellness, the better. She agrees that education is the way to go because kids need these lessons consistently brought to their attention in order for it to become part of their lifestyle. However, Jean also believes that the issue is bigger than that and requires the education of parents and the community as a whole. She then brought up an interesting point that we had not considered: the importance of infrastructure. Our society is not walking accessible for the most part. She provided an example of big European cities that allow walking everywhere - these cities do not have the same obesity issues that we currently face. When we told Jean our thoughts about proposing a required annual "Michigan Health Day', she supported the idea and referenced similar days that PHS already has in place. Still, she warned us that one day a year will not end up sufficing for the outcomes we are working towards.

 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

We met with Austin Gould, one of the Topic Coordinators, on Friday, November 9th to get some feedback and opinions from him before moving on to finalizing our proposal. He was very helpful in giving us recommendations of different people to reach out to in terms of scheduling consultations, suggesting we reach out to health teachers that currently work at public elementary and middle schools in Michigan and ask them about their current health curriculums and what they’d like to see taught at a ‘day of health’ assembly. Our meeting with Austin was very enlightening and he really helped us hash out many of the details for our final solution.

 

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.

At the very beginning of our research process, we were a bit lost as to where we wanted to go with our topic. We knew we wanted to confront a problem related to children, but struggled with what exactly it was we wanted to solve.

When first beginning our media artifact, we brainstormed ideas surrounding fast food and its impact on youth and children. However, after bouncing ideas around and researching for a few days, we concluded that we wanted to confront the issue of childhood obesity in Michigan.

The next stage of our thought process involved thinking of where our solutions would take place. School seemed the most practical place because all youth have access to school and spend a significant amount of their time there. The education aspect also satisfies the need of our Persona/POV statement, a parent, who does not necessarily have the time or resources to provide their children with the necessary health education they want their child to receive.

Next, we came up with our three solutions. Upon creating these solutions, we found one stood out the most as the most feasible and practical: solution 1 required health curriculum. The education route, in our eyes, will be the most effective at solving this pressing issue. However, after meeting with the MSC instructors, we concluded that while this solution was on the right track, it is a large commitment for schools and legislators. So, we decided to modify it into solution 4. We feel that solution #4 is the most feasible, as it will only require middle schools and elementary schools in Michigan to dedicate one day out of the year to teach their students about the dangers of obesity and the many benefits of living a healthy lifestyle as opposed to integrating a full health curriculum into their school.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Morgan - I believe that Grace and I played an equal part in producing the content seen on the finished proposal. We were successful at splitting up the work evenly and using our time productively so that we were not working on the same things too often. For instance, Grace is great with photoshop so she was able to take the lead on our Media Artifact. Meanwhile, I am good at interpersonal communication so I spearheaded much (but not all) of our contact with our consultations. We recognized each other's strengths and were able to put them to use in efficient ways in order to produce the best proposal we possibly could. In the end, all of the research and communication was divided evenly. Even when one of us took the lead on specific aspects of the proposal, the other was able to contribute both equally and powerfully. 

Grace - Morgan and I worked very well as equal partners throughout this entire proposal process. For the most part, we collaborated on most aspects of our proposal and leveraged each of our strengths to produce the best work we could. I'm in the art school and have a lot of experience with graphic design, so I put these skills towards our media artifact. Morgan took the lead in scheduling the phone calls and meetings that we had in order to complete our three consultations. In terms of the research and writing of our proposal, we worked on these aspects collaboratively. Overall I'd say we worked very well together as equal partners.

FORMAL PROPOSAL

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.

WHEREAS....Michigan’s childhood obesity rate is 32%, ranking 19th highest in the nation.

WHEREAS....The state of Michigan does not require elementary or middle school students to participate in physical education or recess.

WHEREAS....A majority of schools in Michigan do not participate in farm-to-school lunch programs.

WHEREAS... The state of Michigan does not require public schools to teach health courses. 

(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).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. Implement an annual state-wide 'Day of Health and Wellness' that will be taught at public elementary and middle schools.

2. Physical Education classes and Health classes will be required to be taught in public schools in the state of Michigan.

3. Starting at a young age, educate children consistently on health and nutrition, stressing the dangers of obesity.

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Implementing a thorough unit in health class that educates students on healthy eating habits and lifestyles could potentially take away time from educating youth on other health class topics as in-depth as they currently do.

2. Depending on the student's socioeconomic status, some youth may not have easy access to the healthy lifestyles that will be taught (i.e. healthy food is often more expensive).

3. One day of health education will not be sufficient enough to prevent childhood obesity. Children will learn for one day, but there will be a lack of consistency, which will make this information less likely to be kept in their mind and subsequently they won't know how to accurately lead healthy lifestyles. 

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

Overall, we do not foresee this implementation as a large monetary cost to the state. The state would donate money to an organization that preaches healthy lifestyles and combats childhood obesity. This organization would then come into the schools for one day, providing all resources needed in order to educate the students. 

In regard to non-monetary costs, the schools would need to sacrifice one typical day of learning in order for this "Day of Health and Wellness" to take place, but we see this being a long-lasting benefit to the school and its students. 

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

http://www.projecthealthyschools.org/learn/how.html

https://stateofobesity.org/states/mi/

https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html

 

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Total votes: 17