Classroom Commits To Fight Against Childhood Obesity

At the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, there’s now a class completely centered around handling the growing problem of childhood obesity.

Ten years ago, there were no college courses focusing on childhood obesity.

“I believe it’s one of the few courses around the U.S. — to my knowledge — that specifically addresses obesity prevention,” said Dr. Tara LaRowe, an instructor at the UW’s School of Medicine and Public Health.

LaRowe helped develop the course four years ago.

“A lot of what we’re focusing on are health behaviors. We’re focused on improving nutrition and physical activity in children and general health overall,” she said.

The students come from all walks of life — from local government and school officials to medical professionals and students completing their master’s degrees in public health.

“I really wanted to get in there and see what different disciplines were doing about it and try to get a grasp on the things that are happening,” said Katy Lois, a master’s of public health student from Mount Horeb.

“It’s very easy to point the finger, but instead of that, I think it’s important to look at the causes, the societal factors, and my personal interest is in poverty and obesity,” said Sarah Lessem, a PhD sociology student who has spent the last several years focusing on programs to combat childhood obesity in the Chicago area.

The overriding theme in the class is to trigger a societal change with a focus on kids.

“Children are sponges, and they’ll suck it up, so we can all work together and make small steps to improve (the) nutrition side, as well as physical activity,” said LaRowe.

The eight-week course meets once for three hours a week and is available for auditing for pediatricians. It is Course 650 in Population Health Sciences and generally fils up quickly.