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There has never been a more prevalent time for the subject of nutrition to have a place in schools.

School Obesity Prevention Recommendations. (Harvard School of Public Health)

With good evidence that school-based prevention programs can successfully-and without many added resources-help students to eat better, be more active, and achieve healthier weights, schools are poised to become an integral part of the fight against the obesity epidemic. As with education in general, the sooner we act, the better.

The foundation for lifelong good health is laid in childhood. And outside of home life, nothing provides more of an immersive experience for children than the time they spend in school. This means schools have a rich opportunity to improve youth health and tackle obesity at the ideal point in time-before problems take hold.

One of the main avenues that schools can use to positively affect health is also one most directly in line with every school’s mission: educating students. Nutrition and physical activity lessons can be woven into the curriculum-in core classroom subjects, physical education, and after-school programs-to teach skills that help students choose and maintain healthy lifestyles. In addition to teaching evidence-based nutrition and activity messages, school physical education should focus on getting students engaged in high-quality and regular activity.

Schools can also promote health outside of the classroom, by surrounding students with opportunities to eat healthy and stay active. To improve nutrition, schools can include healthier food offerings in the cafeteria and eliminate marketing of unhealthy foods. To improve activity, schools can develop safe walking and biking routes to school, and can promote active recess time.

Wellness programs for faculty and staff can also be integral to improving the school environment, not only serving to boost faculty and staff health but also building school-wide enthusiasm for student-focused programs.

Additionally, schools can serve as important data sources on student health. Anonymous, school-level information on markers like students’ body mass index (BMI) can help educators and policy-makers assess success of current programs and decide the direction of future programs.

Obesity is one of the most unmet challenges in our society, with 1 in every 5 children leaving primary school obese. The prevalence and increasing rates of obesity, are not spread equally across society, and there is a strong systemic relationship between obesity and deprivation.

Recent governments have taken a fragmented approach to tackling obesity with regards to the increasing childhood obesity statistics and whilst some approaches have been viewed as moderatley successful, (sugar tax on fizzy drinks, watershed for adverts and BOGOF's banned from supermarkets) this approach has fallen short of the cross-cutting population health approach that is drastically needed.

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