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About This Course

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About This Course

Unless effective population-level interventions to reduce obesity are developed, . . . the youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents.1

Childhood obesity is growing to epidemic proportions and if this trend isn't reversed, the potential consequences are frightening. As a nutrition or health professional, you have a key role to play in developing and implementing interventions to address this issue in your community. The skills you will learn in this course can help you be as effective as possible.

The most obvious remedy is for kids to eat less and to exercise more. However, if it were that simple, then we wouldn't be facing this epidemic. To intervene effectively, we need to dig deeper and address the root causes of the problem.

Using an ecological approach, this course helps you identify these underlying causes and begin developing an action plan for intervention in your community. This approach helps you assess what factors in a child's immediate and wider environment drive his or her eating and activity behaviors.

This approach and this course follow the model below, which, for our purposes, can be read in both directions. Moving from top to bottom in the course of our investigation, we start with the problem, identify specific behavioral and environmental factors that may be causing the problem, and then explore what may be predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing these behaviors and environmental conditions. In the course project, you'll practice applying this approach to excessive weight gain in children in your community. Once you have identified what factors you need to change, you'll develop an action plan for your intervention. Your action plan will address the contributing factors and eventually the problem, following the model from bottom to top.

An Ecological Approach to Preventing Childhood Obesity2


This approach may seem time consuming, but by carefully getting at the underlying causes, your intervention will help solve the problem—instead of just treating symptoms or even possibly making the problem worse.

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  • Describe the prevalence, trends, and consequences of childhood obesity
  • Discuss the rationale for and process of applying an ecological approach for planning interventions to promote healthy eating and active living
  • List key child and adult behaviors contributing to excessive weight gain in children
  • Assess environmental factors contributing to excessive weight gain in children
  • Assess and prioritize predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing factors related to excessive weight gain in children
  • Discuss the rationale and approaches for building and facilitating effective collaborations for addressing nutrition issues
  • Identify appropriate intervention methods and strategies for addressing priority predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing factors contributing to excessive weight gain in children
  • Develop an action plan for addressing childhood obesity in your community

1 Olshansky, SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, et al. A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med. 2005; 352:1143.

2 Adapted from Green LW, Kreuter MW. Health Program Planning: An Educational and Ecological Approach, 4th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2005


Suggested Learning Path

Resource Resource: About the Faculty Authors
This page introduces you to the Cornell NutritionWorks team that created this course.

Resource Resource: About the Facilitator
Meet your course facilitator.

Resource Resource: Course Map
This is a list of links from which you can go directly to any page in the course.

Resource Resource: Course Expectations
Learn more about the approach being taken in this course and what will be expected of you.

Resource Resource: About eCornell
Learn more about some of the online professional development programs offered by eCornell.

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Cornell NutritionWorks: Preventing Childhood Obesity
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