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The Public Health Issues of Child Obesity

Seminar Leader:
Seema Sonnad (1963-2015)


According to the Institutes of Medicine, the increasing number of obese children and youth throughout the United States has led policy makers to rank it as a critical public health threat. Since the 1970s, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased significantly for all age groups. A confluence of factors has led to the rise of obesity and it is recognized that an action plan for addressing the problem must include families, local and national governments and the schools.

Lively discussions about student eating habits, including the infamous Philadelphia “black bag” and barriers to healthier nutrition and exercise patterns were discussed. Seminar fellows each designed their own syllabus focused on the area of obesity most relevant to their planned unit, while we additionally examined the many factors contributing to childhood obesity. We began by looking at the extent of the problem and the current and potential consequences, and then looked at the roles of media, local communities, the schools, and home environments in both promoting and potentially combating childhood obesity.

Our vital classroom discussions were supplemented with readings from Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, an Institute of Medicine publication. Units spanned teaching younger children better nutritional choices, the range of vegetarian choices, and the history of the school lunch program as well as several units aimed at teaching students more about nutrition, exercise and how to interpret information. The curriculum units presented below provide a wide range of approaches for arming students against the growing problem of obesity.

As a seminar leader and member of TIP’s University Advisory Council, Prof. Sonnad was dedicated to the program mission and played an important role in our founding. She passed away unexpectedly in 2015.

Unit TitleAuthor


Phat Math

Anne Cherian
Keywords: childhood obesity, eating behaviors, exercise programs, growth patterns, obesity, obesity prevention, physical activity, weight control

What Do Brad Pitt and Einstein have in Common?

Cheryle Jackson
Keywords: 5th grade, alternative eating, childhood obesity, Health, journals, nutrition, obesity, population-based intervention, public health, recipes, Science, Standard American Diet, vegetarianism

Me—A Wonderful Eater

Catherine Cmiel
Keywords: analyze, charts, choose good foods, classify foods, elementary school, food pyramid, healthy bodies, Literature, need, nutrition, nutritional games, want, worksheets, writing

Eating Kid Healthy and Exercising

Daun U. Sandlin
Keywords: Body Mass Index, children, diseases, eating right, elementary school, exercise, healthy bodies, healthy lifestyle, parent involvement, unhealthy diet

Childhood Obestiy in America

David H. Adams
Keywords: body fat, childhood obesity, daily exercise, fast food, healthy good choices, Middle School, poor diets, processed foods, science lab, self esteem

Childhood Obesity: Eating For Worth Not Girth

Deborah R. Sanchez
Keywords: childhood obesity, good nutrition, information on healthy foods, overweight, physical activity, unhealthy eating habits

Think before you eat! A Kindergarten Nutrition Guide

Grace Hollander
Keywords: childhood obesity, daily exercise, diet, exercise, fruits and vegetables, Health literacy, healthy eating, nutrition, obesity, self-awareness

A Weighty Battle: Helping Children Fight Obesity

Joyce Arnosky
Keywords: 5th grade, childhood obesity, exercise, food choices, healthy choices, healthy food choices, literacy, Math, obesity, physical activity, self-regulation, visual arts

What’s for Lunch?

Rita Sorrentino
Keywords: 5th grade, childhood obesity, Health, healthy choices, lunch choices, nutiriton, obesity, overweight children, school day food