This course helps you learn how to take an ecological approach to preventing childhood obesity. This approach is in contrast to more traditional, individual approaches that start and stop with behavioral assessments (children are eating too much, exercising too little, and so on), and just provide education directed toward individual behavior change. We, and many others, believe that while this approach might help some individual children to prevent or decrease excessive weight gain, it cannot stop the spread of such weight gain in our communities
because it tends to treat only the immediate causes and symptoms, and not the root or underlying causes.
An ecological approach leads you through a series of assessments—of behavior, of the environment, and then of predisposing, enabling, and reinforcing (P.E.R.) factors—to help you diagnose the true, root causes of excessive childhood weight gain.
We believe that then, and only then, can you develop an action plan for intervention that will treat the causes of the problem—not just the symptoms—and help prevent childhood obesity. This approach is based on the PRECEDE-PROCEED model for health program planning and evaluation.1
You'll be practicing this approach, while focusing on a community where you work, via a four-part project that runs through this course. The four parts are as follows:
- Course Project - Part 1 - Assessing Behavioral Factors
- Course Project - Part 2 - Assessing Environmental Factors
- Course Project - Part 3 - Assessing P.E.R. Factors
- Course Project - Part 4 - Developing Your Action Plan
When you are done with all four parts, you'll have identified factors related to excessive childhood weight gain in your community setting, prioritized which you should address first, and developed an outline of an action plan for appropriate intervention.
During the course, you'll submit each part of the course project to a facilitator, who will provide comments and help make sure you are on track. At the end of the course, you'll submit your final action plan, which consists of all four parts of your course project. Until that final submission, you can always go back to review and revise any part of your course project. In addition to the course project, you'll practice finding prevalence data relevant to your community and discuss your work experiences with your fellow learners. In order to earn continuing professional education credit, you'll need to complete the data-gathering exercise, participate in two discussion forums, and complete the course project.
To support your work, a sample case study runs throughout the course. First you'll meet Nick and Miguel, two typical sixth graders. Then you'll follow Anita, a nutrition professional, as she takes an ecological approach to developing action plans for interventions in Nick and Miguel's communities. Her work is used to provide sample answers for each of the course project questions.
Good luck, and have fun!
To review any part of this module, choose a section from the choices listed in the left margin. To move on to another module, click Course Home at the top of this page to choose another module.
1 Green LW, Kreuter MW. Health Program Planning: An Educational and Ecological Approach, 4th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2005.
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Cornell NutritionWorks: Preventing Childhood Obesity
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