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Pinellas school system pushes wellness campaigns

First lady Michelle Obama put a national spotlight on childhood obesity this year with her Let's Move campaign, an effort that includes making school lunches more nutritious and getting kids to exercise more. • On the local level, Pinellas County has been pushing wellness campaigns in schools, trying to improve cafeteria offerings and incorporating health-related materials in reading classes.

"Here and now, students are less healthy, they're skipping breakfast and lunch, and they're not exercising," said Peggy Johns, the Pinellas County School District's preK-12 health education supervisor.

The district tracks students' health, Johns said, assessing their fitness in physical education classes and through online surveys that quiz health class students. The result: Students' health appears to worsen as they move through middle and high school.

At that stage, students don't get enough calcium or eat enough fruits and vegetables, Johns said. Middle schoolers also can opt out of PE, and high schoolers have to take only one credit of an integrated health and PE class, she said.

Plus, everyone has different ideas of what schools should teach. "It's an ongoing conflict as to where we put our resources," Johns said. "It is a balancing act."

BY THE NUMBERS

According to the Pinellas County Public Health Department in 2008:

31 percent of middle school students did not get enough exercise

39 percent of high school students did not get enough exercise

9.4 percent of middle school students were overweight

9.8 percent of high school students were overweight

Pinellas school system pushes wellness campaigns 11/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 13, 2010 3:31am]
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