Did you hear?...Two studies highlight affects of obesity in schools and among middle-aged Americans

State P.E. programs getting failing grade, says NASPE. Middle-aged Americans are unhealthier than Brit counterparts, reports Rand Corp.
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State P.E. programs getting failing grade, says NASPE
Although childhood obesity is on the rise with numerous calls for action by the Surgeon General and the CDC, most states are getting a failing grade on their physical education requirements, according to findings from the latest "Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA," released by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association.

Conducted every five years, the report provides current information about the status of physical education in each state in the following areas: time requirements, exemptions/waivers and substitutions, class size, standards, curriculum and instruction, student assessment, teacher certification, National Board Certification, state physical education coordinator and body mass index collection.

Since the last Shape of the Nation Report in 2001, there has been a continued increase in childhood and adult overweight and obesity, NASPE said. Currently, 17 percent of children and teens age 6 to 19 years are overweight – about 9 million -- and an additional 31 percent are at risk for being overweight. Even though a majority of states mandates physical education, most do not require a specific amount of instructional time and about half allow exemptions, waivers and substitutions -- significantly reducing the effectiveness of the mandate.

Also, some states establish standards or very broad guidelines for curriculum content and defer specific decisions regarding time, class size, and student assessment to local school districts or even schools. The report said it results in very diverse patterns of delivery for physical education within states.

NASPE added that the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001 is also threatening the amount of time available for physical education since it focuses on student achievement in defined core academic subjects. As states develop or select standardized tests to hold schools and students accountable, content that is not tested, such as physical education, has become a lower priority.

To check out the complete report, visit www.naspeinfo.org/.

Middle-aged Americans are unhealthier than Brit counterparts, reports Rand Corp.
The news doesn’t get any better with a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that significantly higher number of middle-aged Americans suffer from chronic illnesses than their British counterparts. All those bangers, pasties and beer haven't added up to a less healthy country, it seems.

Rand Corp. researchers said higher obesity rates among Americans was the most probable cause. "You don't expect the health of middle-aged people in these two countries to be too different, but we found that the Americans are a lot less healthy than the English," said James Smith, a Rand economist and one of the study's authors. In general, Europeans walk much more than Americans do, including for shopping errands.

Rand’s analysis of health surveys showed the prevalence of diabetes and cancer were nearly twice as high among white American, 55 to 64, than British in the same age group. Heart disease was 50 percent more common in the United States than in Britain, and rates of stroke, high blood pressure and lung disease were more common among middle-aged Americans as well.

Overall, 15 percent of middle-aged Americans suffered from heart disease compared to 10 percent of their British counterparts, diabetes afflicted 12.5 percent of Americans versus 7 percent of the British, and cancer hit 9.5 percent of the Americans compared to 5.4 percent of the British. Based on income and education, illnesses except for cancer were more common among the less well-off in both countries, the study reported.

The study noted that the prevalence of obesity in the United States rose to 31 percent in 2003 from 16 percent in 1980. The British are still getting fatter, though, with U.K. obesity rates more than tripling in the same period -- to 23 percent from 7 percent. They might not be far behind the Americans. "It may be that America's longer history of obesity or differences in childhood experiences create the problems seen among middle-aged Americans," said study co-author James Banks, an economist at University College London. "This may mean that over time the gap between England and the United States may begin to close."

The surveys were conducted between 1999 and 2003.

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