School Counselors Perspectives of the Barriers and Facilitators Associated with their Involvement in the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

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Background: Childhood obesity has become a public health priority in the U.S. and is linked to a number of significant comorbidities including asthma, sleep apnea and depression. In addition, there is an increase in social isolation and peer victimization. Purpose: the purpose of this study was to explore Professional School Counselors (PSC) perceptions of the role they play in childhood obesity. Specifically, some of the barriers and facilitators that influence PSCs' participation in the fight against childhood obesity were examined. Methods: An electronic survey was completed by 1088 (eight percent response rate) practicing K-12 school counselors nationwide. Results: About two-thirds of the professional school counselors in this study reported that working with students who present with obesity-related issues was part of their role and function. Another 81.3% stated that among three major barriers, lack of time was the most significant factor that prevented PSCs from working with students with obesity related issues. On the other hand, 90% of the PSCs in this study stated that they would be more involved in prevention/treatment of obesity related issues if they received more requests from parents, teachers and students with obesity related issues. Discussion: Childhood obesity continues to plague our nation's children with consequences that extend well beyond the physical health of the student. Its impact is seen and felt in the thousands of classrooms across the U.S. The fight to eradicate childhood obesity can be broadened to include a well-trained and underutilized resource in the schools-professional school counselors. School counselors in this study suggested that given the opportunity and the resources they would become more engaged in the fight against childhood obesity. Translation to Health Education Practice: The findings of this study have implications for medical and health education practitioners in that they have additional allies in a setting where children and adolescents spend most of their day. PSCs are well-trained, uniquely positioned stakeholders who are willing and capable of collaborating with parents, students, medical personnel, and public health officials and workers. © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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American Journal of Health Education





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Graduate Psychology and Counseling