Blog Post for: Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH
06/18/2007 | Jennifer Pomeranz, JD, MPH
Finally, a Real Role Model
Starting on June 26th, ABC will launch a TV series called Shaq’s Big Challenge, featuring Shaquille O’Neal and his “dream team” of experts who are setting out to battle childhood obesity. Shaq gathered six specialists from around the country to work with six middle school children in Florida. The team includes: a personal trainer, nutritionist, child obesity expert, celebrity chef (Tyler Florence- yay!), university sports coach, and Shaq’s own physician/trainer. The most promising aspect of this show is that it addresses the many layers of the toxic environment in which children live.
Initially Shaq and the experts will work within the kids’ homes and schools with a plan to provide “tasty kid-friendly nutritious meals on a budget, as well as incorporating more exercise into the kids’ day.” Their approach shows that they have actually considered the real hurdles faced by public schools, while also recognizing parents need help in the home. Secondly, the team will expand their scope to work with local school districts and government officials to develop a wellness program that could be feasible for the whole state of Florida.
In 2004, public schools were handed an unfunded mandate by the federal government to create local wellness policies, which had to be implemented by June 2006. Little is known about the end results of these policies across the country. Hopefully, with the help of Shaq and his new show, America will get insight into the real challenges public schools face and the need for significant intervention, funding and attention to school aged children and their environments.
I am optimistic that Shaq’s Big Challenge can make some kind of a difference. At the least it will bring knowledge to its viewers that can inspire healthy behavior, community action, and even legislation that reaches beyond the show and the State of Florida.