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Childhood Obesity and the Planet Health Program

Rebecca Linn

October 10, 2008



Overview of Childhood Obesity

            According to the Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity is determined using Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated from a child’s height and weight.  Having an above normal BMI classifies someone as being overweight or obese and it puts them at risk for serious health problems later on in life.  The following chart characterizes the four weight status categories and the percentile range associated with each:  (


Weight Status Category

Percentile Range


Less than the 5th percentile

Healthy Weight

From the 5th percentile to the 85th percentile


From the 85th percentile to the 95th percentile


Equal to or greater than the 95th percentile


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention there are over 9 million children aged 6-19 who are characterized as obese.  That means that 16% of the population between the ages of six and nineteen are considered obese.  This is truly becoming an epidemic as the rates of childhood obesity have increased significantly since 1980.  ( 


Risk Factors and the Conqequences                                                    


Also according to the American Obesity Association there are several contributors to childhood obesity.  They are as follows:


1.      Poor Food Choice           

2.      Lack of Physical Activity          

3.      Parental Obesity

4.      Poor Eating Patterns

5.      Poor Parenting Style


Furthermore, According to the American Obesity Association there are several negative health outcomes associated with the above risk factors.  Some of the negative health consequences are as follows:


1.      Insulin Resistance

2.      Type 2 Diabetes

3.      Hypertension

4.      High Cholesteral

5.      Depressive Symptoms

6.      Poor Body Image



Planet Health


            In response to the increasing number of obese children, public health officials realized that something had to be done to prevent and treat obesity in children.  One example of a treatment and prevention plan is Planet Health.  According to its website, Planet Health is a curriculum for middle school aged children that is designed to emphasize proper nutrition and the importance of physical exercise.  The program builds children’s skills in other areas as well and serves to increase a child’s overall education.  “Through classroom and physical education (PE) activities, Planet Health aims to increase activity, improve dietary quality and decrease inactivity” (  The program aims to improve children’s lifestyle and behavior by giving them the opportunity to make informed decisions about their health. (


How Will This Work?


            The planet health program aims to bring behavior modification into the home as well by advocating improved eating habits, increased exercise and decreased time watching television or playing on the computer (also known as ‘screen time’).  In fact, Planet Health has five important messages that are taught to the students enrolled in the curriculum:


1. Be physically active every day

2. Limit screen time to no more than two hours each day

3. Eat five or more fruits and vegetables (combined) per day

4. Eat more whole grains and less added sugar

5. Eat foods low in saturated fat and containing no trans fat


            These messages serve to advocate healthy behavioral choices for middle school aged children.  Each of these points in the curriculum addresses a possible risk factor for childhood obesity, and thus the creators of Planet Health hope that by addressing the risk factors their program will help prevent and treat childhood obesity.  (


But Will it Really Work?


            According to their own website, Planet Health admits that their goals are more centered around prevention and promoting positive behaviors than on treatment of children who are already overweight or obese.  Therefore, while the program will not reduce the number of obese children, it does aim to keep that number from increasing.  (


            Similarly, according to a 2008 PR Newswire article, behavior management and alteration programs, like Planet Health, are the best and most effective ways for middle school aged children to prevent obesity and treat obesity if it already occurring.  According to this same study, stressing and emphasizing improved eating and exercise habits, like those advocated by Planet Health, are the best ways to alter children’s behavior to make it healthier (Anonymous, 2008).


            Furthermore, according to another 2008 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association it has been proven that exercise has had a significant impact and has helped to treat children with extremely high body mass indexes.  Not only does this article back up the claims that Planet Health makes about the negative health consequences of obesity, but it also states that those children who have been identified and treated with behavior modification therapy before illnesses from obesity ensue have more success with loosing weight and moving towards a healthy weight (Mitka, 2008). 


            Due to the extremely complex nature of obesity and weight gain, it is difficult and almost impossible to pinpoint one behavior that is always correlated with obesity.  There are several factors that have an influence, and not all of them can be modified easily or even at all.  For example, both a child’s genetics and socio-economic status can be determinants of obesity.  Therefore it is difficult, if not impossible, to say that changing a child’s exercise patterns and eating habits would entirely change a child’s weight status from obese to normal weight, but it could definitely help. 





Works Cited


Behavioral Modification Programs Help Obese Children Manage Their Weight. (29  September). PR Newswire.  Retrieved October 8, 2008, from ProQuest Newsstand database.


Mike Mitka (2008). Experts Weigh Pros and Cons of Screening and Treatment for Childhood Obesity. JAMA, 300(12), 1401.  Retrieved October 9, 2008, from Health Module database.

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