As we head into another presidential election cycle, we’re starting to hear from people who want to bring back civics courses to every school in America. People need to learn about how government works, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and why these rights and responsibilities are important.
We also hear people demand that schools teach basic life skills, much of which are financial. How do you manage a bank account, apply for a loan, and file a tax return? How do you create a budget? How do credit cards work? How do you negotiate? How do you change a tire? How do you perform first aid?
These are all ideas worth exploring. But here’s what I don’t get.
Healthcare is always part of the political dialogue. As I’ve discussed previously, candidates spend too much time bickering about insurance and not enough time thoughtfully discussing care.
With all the airtime that goes to the healthcare debate, and with chronic illness threatening to bankrupt our healthcare system, where is the outcry to make basic nutrition part of every high school curriculum in the country?
With childhood obesity rates quadrupling over the past 40 years or so, and about one in five children today classified as obese, why isn’t everyone shouting from the mountaintops to educate kids about healthy nutritional habits?
Learning food pyramids and food groups in elementary school is one thing. Teaching kids about the impact of food on their body once they’re old enough to make their own nutritional decisions is something completely different. But it needs to happen.
Of all the basic life skills we could teach our children, what could be more important than educating people about which foods help them feel better, function better and live longer – and which foods do the exact opposite?
Wouldn’t it benefit high school kids to be introduced to nutrigenomics? Imagine if kids learned at a young age that certain tests can tell them which foods and nutrients would turn certain genes on or off and increase the risk of certain types of diseases.
For children who are already obese or showing warning signs of chronic illness, imagine empowering them with the nutritional knowledge they need to make lifestyle changes that can put them on a path to a lifetime of better health. At the very least, they would learn where to go to get the help they need, and that change without medication or surgery is possible.
Most adults don’t know about functional medicine or learn about it until after they’ve developed serious health problems. Imagine if high school kids learned about functional medicine and developed habits that focused on disease prevention and maintaining a state of optimal health – as teenagers.
Will this generation of children finally be the ones to reverse the chronic illness epidemic in our country? I firmly believe they can be, but it’s up to us as responsible adults to do our part. Put basic nutrition in the curriculum of every high school in America.
No grants from big food or big pharma. No lobbyist-approved curriculum. No buzzwords. Just real nutrition education that resonates with high school kids, developed by clinical nutritionists and functional medicine practitioners who have real-world experience helping people prevent and reverse chronic illness.
We need to break down nutrition to its core components – proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. We need to embrace the functional medicine model and build alignment among clinicians and educators on a core program. I’d love to be part of this effort!
Of course, this has to start at the local level. Go to board of education meetings and respectfully ask how one would go about adding basic nutrition as a required course at the high school level. This is how change happens – through education.
The time for waiting is over. We’re in crisis mode today. If we want our kids to live healthier, happier lives, we need to act now.