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Health and wellness among adolescents Author(s): David C. Virtue Source: The Phi Delta Kappan , April 2012 , Vol. 93, No. 7 (April 2012), pp. 76-77 Published by: Phi Delta Kappa International Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23210014 REFERENCES Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article:

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Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms Phi Delta Kappa International is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Phi Delta Kappan This content downloaded from 69.57.233.164 on Wed, 20 Oct 2021 01:47:30 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms Norway David C. Virtue Schools can’t change eating and fitness habits by themselves, but they do have a role to play. As in the United States, Norwegians are concerned with student wellness, and schools have programs and cur ricula that address various health issues. However, based on my work as a Fulbright roving scholar in Norwe gian ungdomsskoler (lower secondary schoolsyf I U R P $ u gust 2010 to June 2011, stu dents in Norway seem much healthier than American stu dents. My impression is sup ported by health-related data. Young adolescents in Nor way exhibit low incidences of alcohol use, sexually trans mitted diseases, and eating disorders. In terms of mental health, Norwegian youth are generally happier and more satisfied with life than their counterparts in other Euro pean countries (Hansen & Wold, 2007yf . During my time in Nor way, I visited 43 schools pri marily serving students in DAVID C. VIRTUE (virtue@mail box.sc.eduyf L V D Q D V V L V W D Q W S U R I H s sor of instruction and teacher edu cation at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. Health and wellness among adolescents grades 8 through 10, with seven visits to barneskole (pri mary schoolyf F O D V V H V V S D Q Q L Q g grades one through seven. The most visible health related differences I observed between young adolescents in Norway and the United States involved healthy eat ing, weight-related issues (e.g., obese and overweight studentsyf D Q G S K \ V L F D O D c tivity. In the United States, messages about healthy eat ing are often contradicted by unhealthy or poorly balanced meals offered in the cafete ria, by vending machines that ensure corporate purveyors of nutritionally bankrupt snack foods a captive market (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011yf D Q d by scheduling practices that don’t consider the student’s well-being. Norwegian stu dents were shocked to see my 14-year-old niece’s class schedule that required her to go six hours without a meal. She ate breakfast at 6:30 a.m., an hour before school started and was assigned to the last lunch period at 12:30 p.m. She had no breaks, other than five minutes passing time that barely allowed her to get from one end of the large school campus to the other, and the school had no provi sions for snacks. Many Nor wegian students considered this schedule inhumane, and I quickly came to share their perspective. Students in Norway were very aware of Americans’ poor eating habits. A student in Hammerfest asked me, “In the U.S., do you eat des sert after lunch?” I quickly replied, “Of course, we do.” My mind raced back to the lunchroom at my school in Franklin, N.J., where every one had dessert — either the chocolate cake or pudding that came with the school lunch or a Twinkie or Big Wheel cupcake from home. Unlike U.S. schools, Norwegian schools don’t have cafeterias that offer hot meals. “Of course, we eat dessert after lunch in the U.S.,” I af firmed. “Don’t you?” The response was a resounding, “No!” After my visit to Ham merfest, I asked hundreds of Norwegian students about their dessert eating habits, and they consistently told me that most children get dessert once a week or maybe a few times a month. My discussions about foods with students often turned to waffles. Norwegian waffles are, in my opinion, the best in the world. These dense, eggy, mildly sweet waffles are cooked in an eight-inch di ameter iron that presses them into four interconnected hearts, and they’re typically served with jam and creme fraiche (a kind of sour creamyf or brunost (brown cheeseyf . Most Norwegians have a waffle iron at home, or they buy fresh waffles at kiosks, convenience stores, bakeries, and cafes. Sometimes, during my travels, the hotel would have a self-service waffle iron so patrons could prepare an after-work snack, but I never saw a waffle or waffle iron at the breakfast buffet. As many students told me, “Nor wegians do not eat waffles for breakfast. Waffles are a treat.” Norwegians enjoy their waffles and many other sweet foods, but there ap pears to be a common under standing that such items are treats to be enjoyed occasion ally and not dietary staples. Unlike US. schools, Nor wegian schools don’t have cafeterias that offer hot meals. Most schools I vis ited had a canteen where students could buy a few items — often yogurt, juice, iced tea, and toasted bread — but nearly every student and teacher brings a lunch from home. Lunches typi cally consist of an open-faced sandwich or two, which is about all their small lunch boxes, called matpakke, will hold. (There is no room for a Twinkie!yf 7 K H \ D O V R P D \ K D Y e a piece of fruit or a carrot, which is offered to students for free at school, and they wash it all down with milk, fruit juice, or iced tea. Most students prepare their own lunches, practicing healthy eating habits inculcated at home and in barnehage (preschoolyf 0 \ Z L I H D Q G I 76 Kappan April 2012 Photo by Bodil Aasmundstad David C. Virtue Health and wellness among adolescents Photo by Bodil Aasmundstad This content downloaded from 69.57.233.164 on Wed, 20 Oct 2021 01:47:30 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms Comments? ■ ■ Like PDK at www. «2JBt facebook.com/pdkintl quickly learned not to pack any sweets in our three-year old son’s lunchbox, and other American parents we met reported being reprimanded for sending a cookie or piece of candy to school with their children. Although I didn’t see any written policies about junk food, students I met ev erywhere in Norway under stood that soda, candy, and cakes should not be brought to school. I rarely saw Norwegians who were obese or over weight, and I often spent an entire day at a school with out seeing a single child who would fall into this category. About 17yb R I D G R O H V F H Q W V L n the United States are obese, making them more likely to exhibit risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes than children who are not obese. Another 31 yb of adolescents in the United States have a high body mass index (Ogden & Carroll, 2010yf 3 R R U H D W L Q J K D E L W s likely contribute to these disturbing facts, along with a lack of physical activity. Physically active youth Young American adoles cents are sedentary compared to their Norwegian counter parts. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 13yb of U.S. schoolchildren walk to school today, compared to 66yb L Q : K L O H W K H U e is growing concern in Nor way regarding inactive youth (Hansen & Wold, 2007yf W K e students I encountered ap peared remarkably active through my American eyes. I often saw students walking, biking, sledding, or skiing (yes, skiingyf W R V F K R R O 6 W u dents engaged actively during the physical education lessons I observed, and they were al ways enthusiastic participants Thinkstock in my sports workshops. I visited a school in south ern Norway on a cold, rainy day in early March, and students insisted that we go outside so they could try Although I didn’t see any written policies about junk food, students I met everywhere in Norway understood that soda, candy, and cakes should not be brought to school. throwing and kicking my American football. Every student rushed out of the school — no umbrellas, no raincoats — and headed to the soccer field where they practiced kicking field goals. In Nordkjosbotn, a small town in northern Norway, we took to the field during the first snowfall of the year and practiced throwing spiral passes and kicking the foot ball over the soccer goal. Stu dents often engaged in physi cal activity during recess, and many schools have policies requiring students to go out side during these breaks. In Longyearbyen, Svalbard, a Norwegian territory near the North Pole, students told me they were required to go outdoors during break, “un less it is something like minus 40 degrees (Fahrenheityf , n schools on the Norwegian mainland with similar poli cies, the threshold for cold is a more bearable minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit. V93 N7 kappanmagazine.org 77 Lessons learned First Lady Michelle Obama has drawn national atten tion to childhood obesity in the United States, opening a window of opportunity for educational leaders to act. My experience in Norway pro vided me with a few lessons that might help guide school based efforts to address this critical issue. Tackling the childhood obe sity epidemic in the United States will require a gradual cultural shift toward a more ac tive, health-conscious lifestyle. Just as diets frequently fail to produce lasting results because individuals don’t maintain good eating and exercise hab its after reaching their goals, so, too, will our efforts to curb childhood obesity fail if we don’t institutionalize positive, health-promoting practices for the long-term. Schools must reorganize their schedules to allow time and space for physical activity at regular intervals during the day and give students access to nutritious snacks to avoid energy peaks and crashes. Schools must continuously reassess and try to improve the nutritional quality of cafe teria menus. Cafeterias should avoid highly processed foods and foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Students should learn how to assess the nutritional quality of foods and how to prepare healthy meals. Teachers in all subject ar eas should integrate con tent and learning activities that raise awareness about obesity and other health is sues (Zuercher, 2011yf . Separating cultural habits related to food from practices in schools will remain a chal lenge for the United States. But, ultimately, parents, stu dents, and the general public must hold schools account able for teaching and pro moting healthy behaviors, k References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011yf & K L O G U H Q s food environments state indicator report, 2011. Atlanta, GA: Author. Hansen, F. & Wold, B. (2007yf . Norway. In J.J. Arnett (Ed.yf , International encyclopedia of adolescence, Vol. 2. (pp. 699 712yf 1 H Z < R U N 1 < 5 R X W O H G J H . Ogden, C. & Carroll, M. (2010, Juneyf 3 U H Y D O H Q F H R I R E H V L W y among children and adolescents: United States, trends 1963-65 through 2007-08. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zuercher, D.K. (2011yf 0 D W K , science, and web-based activities to raise awareness about nutrition and obesity. Middle School Journal, 43 (1yf . Waffles are widely available in Norway, but are considered an occasional dessert. References Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011yf & K L O G U H Q s food environments state indicator report, 2011. Atlanta, GA: Author. Hansen, F. & Wold, B. (2007yf . Norway. In J.J. Arnett (Ed.yf , International encyclopedia of adolescence, Vol. 2. (pp. 699 712yf 1 H Z < R U N 1 < 5 R X W O H G J H . Ogden, C. & Carroll, M. (2010, Juneyf 3 U H Y D O H Q F H R I R E H V L W y among children and adolescents: United States, trends 1963-65 through 2007-08. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Zuercher, D.K. (2011yf 0 D W K , science, and web-based activities to raise awareness about nutrition and obesity. Middle School Journal, 43 (1yf . Thinkstock This content downloaded from 69.57.233.164 on Wed, 20 Oct 2021 01:47:30 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

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