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Another Essay Concerning Nutritional Education

I am an amateur nutritionist.


All rights reserved to Kellogg's and original artist.


 

Health issue or profession investigated:

Nutrition, Nutritional Education, especially throughout grade school, (1-12) nutrition information and communication of such in general, etc.

Guiding questions:

Does media consumption of children affect their eating habits? Is there a lack of nutritional education and health-related programs, classes, and activities in grade school? If so, why? How can doctors, pediatricians, and schools preach good nutritional habits to children?

Data collected:

It seems like there is a general shift of focus for children when it comes to their nutritional education and information consumption. Although the line drawn may present itself as somewhat blurred, at some general point, children lose track of nutritional guidance and focus within their teachings and media consumption, and the focus shifts instead to primarily taste. Although this may not be the direct concern of the topic at hand, such as a lack of education within schools, a lot of learning occurs outside of school and children, especially those of ages 2-11, are especially impressionable regarding food-related nutrition and decision making. According to an excerpt from The Journal of Nutrition Education, written by Carol Byrd-Bredbenner and Darlene Grasso, a particular study showcased the lack of accurate information in commercials airing over primetime network shows watched heavily by the aforementioned age group. Over half of food and beverage information was misleading, and the majority of such commercials also heavily focused on taste and marketing appeal, and not nutritional content. The study also pointed to a lack of consumer education programs, for both children and parents alike, which digs deeper into the guiding questions at hand.

More findings point to a similar picture painted for the majority of schoolchildren. Leslie A. Lytle, an assistant professor in the division of epidemiology in the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, stresses the numerous needs that the field still has when it comes to relay information to schoolchildren. Such needs include better community modeling, more general work with families, and more innovation in middle and high school regarding their developing programs. The article then lists successful implements of nutritional education. The article also proceeds to state that such methods of innovation and implementation haven't been adequately studied themselves to begin with.

Article Utilized:

According to their sources, such as that of the American Journal of Medicine, there also is an abundant lack of nutrition education-focused programs within medical school as well. The article bills such a field of education as “low hanging fruit” within the medical field. It becomes more and more clear that there is a systemic lack of such an informative regime throughout the educational experience, whether it is that of a primary or secondary school, all the way up to that of a medical school degree. Such a notion is emphasized through dietary factors being identified as the “most significant risk factor” for disability and premature death, according to “The State of US health, 1990-2010: Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors” (derived from the first article in this summary). It appears to be clear that the lack of education that children receive works in a cyclic manner, all the way up to the point where medical students and future medical physicians themselves are also not taught the importance of healthcare.

Article Utilized:

Another important perspective to address with this topic is that of the teacher, especially that of who teaches primary and secondary school. Sometimes, experts and devoted nutritionists come in to address the average classroom, as they have the knowledge and resources to properly convey nutritional education. But, these experts may lack the chemistry and lack the ability to reach these same students that the normal elementary teacher has. The bulk of students usually treat the expert in the same vein as the substitute. On the contrary, the average elementary school teacher, who is not expected to be an expert in nutrition by any means, is sometimes expected to deliver nutritional information to the children. In many instances, the teacher may not be able to justify the topics and information given to them, for they may not believe in it, or are unsure what exactly any of it means. There is a clear and distinct gap between the desire to teach nutrition to young students and the ability to actually do so. Even if the teacher does properly convey the importance of education in nutrition to the student, it would appear that in many instances, this intervention has little to no effect on the student, according to “A Qualitative Phenomenological Exploration of Teachers' Experience With Nutrition Education,” an article

published by The American Journal of Health Education in 2015-16. Typically, the communication of nutritional education is not limited to one specific entity, although ideally schools have nutritionists come in to speak on behalf of teachers. But, not every school has the resources to have them come in on a consistent basis.

Answering the guiding questions:

Sources either further confirm or reiterate previous suspected inferences regarding this field. There is a severe, systemic lack of communication and conveying of information when it comes to nutritional education. After all, above all the more specific guiding questions, the hovering, generalized topic looks at how nutritional education is communicated towards children and parents. Because of the lack of education in primary and grade school, a lack gets reinforced down the line by medical students, doctors, and schools alike, proving this lack is somewhat self-sustaining and cyclic, until a fundamental change occurs. Firstly, schools must assess their current methods of teaching nutrition, or lack thereof. Perhaps nutrition needs to be implemented and integrated into early education in a way that is subliminal, and not necessarily outright. The younger mind is more strongly associated with the ‘I,’ and is unlikely to respond well to direct authority, which is where their distaste in healthy food comes from. Then, in response, the majority of teachers 'positively’ reinforce good student behavior with sugary treats, and thus children associate good behavior with unhealthy food. It must be emphasized to younger children that healthy food doesn't necessarily taste bad. Programs exist where nutritionists, who can also engage with children, interact with students in a way that allows them to be creative when it comes to food and nutrition. Children are allowed to make their own decisions regarding food and can see health-related topics become less insipid and more fun. The continuous integration of these programs, and having them be standardized, not just an after-school option, will surely benefit future generations of children, especially those in primary school.

Secondly, it is abundantly clear, based on the above research, that media consumption definitely has an influence on children regarding nutrition. In some instances, the commercials sandwiched in between their favorite shows sometimes serve as more educational than that of which is taught in school. Children, just like any other human, seek comfort and pleasure above all else, as well as stimulation via vivid animation and colors. Common General Mills and Kellogg’s cereals check all of the boxes regarding the attraction of their targeted demographic. It is only good business that these companies take advantage of the impressionable minds of children, as long as the parents continue to purchase such. In a world where wages are stagnant and prices increase, it can be seen that staying healthy and being nutritious adds up financially, which is likely a key reason why there is a lack of nutritional education in schools to begin with. This ties in nicely with our final guiding questions, where it is seen that another key reason for lack of nutritional knowledge is lack of communication from the doctor’s office. Seeing the dentist, pediatrician, and buying a healthy selection of veggies, metas, and dairy on a consistent basis requires a lot of financial stability, and this is something that not every family has. It is a consequence as to why McDonald’s makes billions of dollars every year– they serve hot, ‘fresh’ food at the call of a whim for a very cheap price— it is a blessing for many families who have lower income. But, this stipulation is not to dismiss or lessen the importance of preaching good eating habits to children.

Where pediatricians, nurses and doctors are expected by parents to have sufficient knowledge in nutrition, they aren’t always able to properly effectively communicate such knowledge to a child, let alone that child’s parent or parents. Thus, the breakdown in communication sees the importance and validity of the knowledge transferred lost, and the bad habits, or easy ways of eating, continue to persist. Thus, above all else, a more dynamic, deeper, and more involved relationship must occur between schools and teachers with doctors and clinics. Only then will a fundamental shift be seen in the way that nutritional education is implemented, whether it is of a lecture or a hands-on approach. It takes a combined effort from parents, pediatricians and schools to really shift the stigma regarding the lack of nutritional information, as well as the lack of effective communication surrounding it.

Reflection:

I was torn between the topics of anesthetics and nutrition for this assignment, and ended up switching last minute to the latter. I’ve only been on laughing gas once, and nutrition education is something I relate to much more heavily. My sister is an athlete as well as an aspiring nutritionist– her cooking, baking and health-conscious awareness has motivated and inspired me to become more nutrition-conscious. Thus, in the beginning of 2022, I began to dabble with nutritional education, and started researching food and nutrition on my own. Only now, in January 2023, I have begun a diet of low-carb and almost no sugar. I have never felt better (when I don’t cheat), yet I wish I knew more about nutrition at a much earlier age. There was a lack of nutritional information and topics and classes throughout the entirety of my grade school years. My own experience alone can serve to prove the merit of the research found above. It took me years to realize just how important nutrition is, and a few more on top of that to realize what works best for myself. A very important stipulation exists within the field, whenever it does manage to be taught in grade school (I feel like when it was taught, it never really stuck with anyone, myself included): We all become generalized. It turns out that each and every physical body is different, and responds to different nutrients in different ways. Some, like myself, have low metabolism and are carb sensitive; others are not. Where is this information in high school? It shouldn’t matter if you are a health student or major or neither, it should be taught regardless.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the information I found in my research. While I acknowledge that there is definitely more to be found regarding nutrition, as nutritionists themselves are still learning more and more about the human body each and every day, it can be seen that there are definitely general principles and characteristics that plague the current education system within America. The media influences young children greatly into making poor decisions and forming bad habits, and these habits and practices are reinforced by a struggling school system, teachers, and a stale economic climate. I realize that it is not merely the lack of authority of parents, the belligerent nature of children, or the lack of communication in clinics and offices– rather it is a combination of all these, coupled with a lack of research on medical students and MD fields as well. In a general sense, my guiding questions were answered, but I cannot help but feel hungry for a solution to the problems discovered.


 


Albrecht, Julie A., Chai, W., Hall, E. “A Qualitative Phenomenological Exploration of Teachers' Experience With Nutrition Education.” American Journal of Health Education, Vol. 47, Issue no. 3, received 17 Sept. 2015, pp. 136-148. Retrieved 11 Feb. 2023, Google Scholar,


Byrd-Bredrenner, Carol. “What is Television Trying to Make Children Swallow?: Content Analysis of the Nutrition Information in Prime-time Advertisements.” Journal of Nutrition Education, Vol. 32, Issue No. 4, July 2000, pp. 187-195. Retrieved Feb. 9,

2023, Google Scholar,


Devries, S. Dalen, J, Eisenberg, D., Maizes, V., Ornish, D., Prisad, A., Sierpina, V., Weil,

Andrew T., Willett W. “A deficiency of Nutrition Education in Medical Training.” The American Journal of Medicine, Vol. 27, Issue No. 9, 19 April 2014, pp 804-806.

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Lytle, Leslie A. “Nutrition Education for School-Aged Children: A Review of Research.”

Food and Consumer Service, USDA, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Sept. 1994, retrieved Feb. 11, 2023, Google Scholar,


 

Vernacular Whirlwind: March 21.









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