Ethics Paper - Childhood Obesity and Nutrition

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Schools may have an ethical obligation to help in the prevention of the increasing propensity toward childhood obesity. School programs can be implemented to improve the nutritional quality of students’ diets. Students spend approximately one third of their day in school and consume one to two meals there per day, therefore justifying the importance of the responsibility to advise dietary behaviors and influence healthy decisions. In consideration of these logical methods, the ethical dilemma arises as good actions conflict with those that may be seen as a conflict of interest by interfering with the choices of children and their parents, faculty, and the community. Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects millions of children and adolescents. This disease is a growing public health concern that must be addressed at the prevention level as opposed to the treatment level, as healthcare has traditionally held its focus. The costs associated with this epidemic continue to rise to astounding levels. These costs are not only monetary, but more importantly, they are the costs associated with the loss of the ability to live a healthy life. While treatment is undeniably important in taking care of our nation, efforts must be made at multiple levels to prevent the problems our country is going to continue to see if we do not. Schools have a responsibility to protect a student’s well being and to implement policies that will benefit the student and the community in which the student lives. Implementation of these policies can be a challenge as decision makers and supporters have opposing opinions and raises ethical concerns. The idea behind schools is more than teaching students academically, it also includes a responsibility to support student health, both physically and emotionally. Nutritional health and well being has long been taught and known to support academic performance. It is also known that students who are well nourished are more likely to retain information and less likely to miss school due to sickness. Research has proven that children from low income families perform better on standardized tests if they participate in the schools breakfast program. These students also have higher attendance than those who do not participate in the school breakfast program.

School implementation around healthy diets and exercise will support the greater community in the long term by preventing health related financial costs associated with health problems that largely affect those who are overweight, in addition to the short term costs that may result from childhood disease developed as a result of childhood obesity. Emphasizing and providing healthy meals, supporting exercise, and education in the schools is important to learning and productivity and short and long term disease prevention. It must be challenged if it is the ethical obligation of the schools to provide children with these tools and resources to make smart decisions or if this challenges the choice of children and their parents, faculty, or even the food and beverage industry who markets specifically to children.

This paper will present research for justifying the need for regulation of foods provided in schools in order to address the existing epidemic and further prevent childhood obesity. The increasing number of obese children and youth in the United States has led policy makers to rank it as a critical public health threat. In 2004, there was a research report written about a study that lasted from 1999 to 2002 entitled "Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents: United States" conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. According to that report 16% of children 6-19 years olds are overweight or obese. This is three times what it was in 1980. This report also discovered than an additional 15% were at risk of becoming overweight (Ogden et al, 2010). Not only has this number...
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