The Wise Choice: Beyond Extra-Extra Wide Chairs

July 11, 2007

by Mark Bishop, HSC Deputy Director

Sometimes people ask about the connection between HSC’s work with wellness and our work with school environmental health. (When we talk about wellness, we mean food and fitness; when we talk about school environmental health, we mean issues related to healthy buildings and indoor air quality.)

We see the connection all the time -– such as in the school where the poor indoor air quality prevented students from exercising in the gym, where inadequate kitchen facilities hinder the preparation of healthy food, or in this report which connects healthy food and asthma risk reduction –- but rarely is the connection illustrated so vividly as in the advertisement I came across recently in the print version of School Construction News.  (Yep, it’s true – we at HSC are avid readers of School Construction News!)

Take a look at the ad:

Wisechoice_4

A publication for those interested in school building issues includes this advertisement for an extra-wide (or “wise”) chair that “effectively supports a wider variety of body types, particularly taller and larger students.”

In other words, chair manufacturers are explicitly marketing products to comfortably support obese students. And the officials involved with school facilities must address the issues that skyrocketing obesity rates raise for health and safety in their buildings.

The childhood obesity epidemic affects every aspect of the school experience for children today – even the chairs they sit on.

But the adjustments that schools need to make in response to this epidemic go far beyond the purchase of wider chairs. Recognizing the tremendous lifelong health impacts of childhood obesity, people need to step forward to do everything they can to halt and begin reversing this dangerous trend in our schools, in our homes and in our communities.

Daily physical education, recess, healthy food and smart nutrition education would be the truly “wise” investments.