Independent Research – Childhood Obesity

Etelson, D., Brand, D. A., Patrick, P. A., & Shirali, A. (2003). Childhood obesity: Do parents recognize this health risk? Obesity Research, 11(11), 1362-1368. Retrieved http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/oby.2003.184.

The purpose of this study was to determine if parents understand the health risks associated with child obesity, whether they know about healthy eating habits, and if they recognize if their child is obese.  Parents of children between the ages of 4 to 8 years old completed an anonymous 18 question form when they brought their child into a pediatricians’ office for a well-care visit.  Participating parents were also asked to place a mark where they believed their child fell on an analog scale going from, “extremely underweight,” to “extremely overweight.”  The purpose of the scale was to assess whether or not parents had an accurate perception of their child’s weight.  Two of the questions were related to healthy eating habits and asked about a healthy amount of juice box intake and how often children should eat fast food.  Interestingly, whether their child was or was not obese, parents indicated they understood the health risks associated with childhood obesity and had an understanding of healthy eating habits as it relates to limiting juice boxes and fast food.  Differences were found in the perceptions parents of overweight children had about their child’s weight compared to the parents who had children with healthy weights when completing the analog scale.  Although researchers were lenient in their interpretation of the scale parents of overweight children marked the wrong section 90% of the time.  The research did not study why parents of obese children had mis-perceptions about their child’s weight but speculated parents either believed the condition was hereditary and unavoidable or under the impression their child would outgrow it.  Based on the research, the recommendation was that pediatricians should teach parents about childhood obesity and encourage them to be involved in obesity prevention programs.  Researchers also note that, “effective treatment requires behavioral modification involving diet and physical activity” (Etelson, Brand, Patrick & Shirali, 2003, p. 1367)

Although this article was written in 2003, childhood obesity remains the most prevalent nutritional disease of children and adolescents in the United States (Schwarz, 2012).  The research recommended one approach to addressing childhood obesity using pediatricians to improve awareness with parents.  While researchers recognized a behavioral modification was necessary to change the diet and physical activity of youth in the United States they did not offer solutions other than working through pediatricians.  Now, the President’s wife, Michelle Obama has started a national campaign called, “Let’s Move: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids.”  Her efforts to improve the health of children in the United States have included redesigning the food pyramid, revamping school lunches so they are healthier, and promoting physical activity.  She has engaged in an extensive media campaign to educate individuals, families, schools, and communities about ways children can have healthy eating habits and be involved in physical activity. 

The similarity between the research and the, “Let’s Move,” campaign is that behaviors as they relate to eating and physical activity need to change.  Comparing the recommendations from the research article and the efforts Mrs. Obama has undertaken with her campaign provides an example of the Adaption-Innovation (A-I) theory.  Those who take a more adaptive approach to problem solving stay within the boundaries and prefer structure accepting the core as a set of guidelines.  In this example, the researchers worked within the boundaries of the healthcare system, using pediatricians to reach parents and accepting the existing approved U.S. growth chart as a basis for determining whether children are obese as the core.  Those who take a more innovative approach are less concerned about boundaries and consider them flexible while avoiding the core and preferring less structure.  The First Lady took a new approach to the problem, expanding the boundaries by reaching out to get everyone in the community involved and creating new dietary requirements in schools.  Her focus is less about raising awareness among only parents to increasing awareness among the nation.  She also redesigned the food pyramid rather than accepting the core as the status quo and working with those factors.  Jablokow writes, “in order for a person or group to progress (indeed, to survive), they must perceive all relevant opportunities (i.e. determine which are germane and concentrate on those), generate the motive to exploit what they perceive, and deploy the required levels (capabilities) and the appropriate styles to solve each specific problem” (2005, p. 544).  Nine years of technological, political, and social changes have provided new opportunities for reaching people and improving awareness of a problem like childhood obesity. 

There were a few limitations in the research study that could be improved.  I think it would be beneficial to conduct the studies in more than one geographic location.  The study only considered one pediatrician’s office in New York.  The study could also build in the socioeconomic status of the participants and whether or not the parents are obese so that a gauge of their eating habits can be established.  I am also curious to know if socioeconomic status has an impact on healthy eating habits and perceptions of childhood obesity.  Further research could be done about why parents have the misperceptions of their child’s weight.

I believe the important aspect of the article is not the method they recommended to approach the problem but rather than they like the First Lady recognize that behaviors must be modified to address the problem of childhood obesity.  As a professional, I plan to implement what I have learned through one of the most interesting components of my job.  A function of my current position is teaching Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) courses to women, many of whom are parents, educators, and/or are actively engaged in the community.  As I facilitate these courses and we engage in physical activity through practicing defensive techniques, we talk about being healthy.  This provides an opportunity to discuss of the common misperceptions about childhood obesity and increase awareness of the First Lady’s national campaign.  Considering this study and First Lady Obama’s work this could also be implemented in a volunteer capacity.  I could work through some local K-12 schools to create committees and partnerships with the community that would focus on awareness of childhood obesity and the resources available now on a national level for programs that focus on healthy eating and activities.

 

References

Jablokow, K. W. (2005). The catalytic nature of science: Implications for scientific problem solving in the 21st century. Technology in Society, 27, 531-549. doi: 10.1016/j.techsoc.2005.08.006.

Let’s move: America’s move to raise a healthier generation of kids. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.letsmove.gov/.

Schwarz, S. M. (2012, December 12). Obesity in children. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/985333-overview.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Independent Research – Critique 1

Etelson, D., Brand, D. A., Patrick, P. A., & Shirali, A. (2003). Childhood obesity: Do parents recognize this health risk? Obesity Research, 11(11), 1362-1368. Retrieved http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/oby.2003.184.

The purpose of this study was to determine if parents understand the health risks associated with child obesity, whether they know about healthy eating habits, and if they recognize if their child is obese.  Parents of children between the ages of 4 to 8 years old completed an anonymous 18 question form when they brought their child into a pediatricians’ office for a well-care visit.  Participating parents were also asked to place a mark where they believed their child fell on an analog scale going from, “extremely underweight,” to “extremely overweight.”  The purpose of the scale was to assess whether or not parents had an accurate perception of their child’s weight.  Two of the questions were related to healthy eating habits and asked about a healthy amount of juice box intake and how often children should eat fast food.  Interestingly, whether their child was or was not obese, parents indicated they understood the health risks associated with childhood obesity and had an understanding of healthy eating habits as it relates to limiting juice boxes and fast food.  Differences were found in the perceptions parents of overweight children had about their child’s weight compared to the parents who had children with healthy weights when completing the analog scale.  Although researchers were lenient in their interpretation of the scale parents of overweight children marked the wrong section 90% of the time.  The research did not study why parents of obese children had misperceptions about their child’s weight but speculated parents either believed the condition was hereditary and unavoidable or under the impression their child would outgrow it.  Based on the research, the recommendation was that pediatricians should teach parents about childhood obesity and encourage them to be involved in obesity prevention programs.  Researchers also note that, “effective treatment requires behavioral modification involving diet and physical activity” (Etelson, Brand, Patrick & Shirali, 2003, p. 1367)

Although this article was written in 2003, childhood obesity remains the most prevalent nutritional disease of children and adolescents in the United States (Schwarz, 2012).  The research recommended one approach to addressing childhood obesity using pediatricians to improve awareness with parents.  While researchers recognized a behavioral modification was necessary to change the diet and physical activity of youth in the United States they did not offer solutions other than working through pediatricians.  Now, the President’s wife, Michelle Obama has started a national campaign called, “Let’s Move: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids.”  Her efforts to improve the health of children in the United States have included redesigning the food pyramid, revamping school lunches so they are healthier, and promoting physical activity.  She has engaged in an extensive media campaign to educate individuals, families, schools, and communities about ways children can have healthy eating habits and be involved in physical activity. 

The similarity between the research and the, “Let’s Move,” campaign is that behaviors as they relate to eating and physical activity need to change.  Comparing the recommendations from the research article and the efforts Mrs. Obama has undertaken with her campaign provides an example of the Adaption-Innovation (A-I) theory.  Those who take a more adaptive approach to problem solving stay within the boundaries and prefer structure accepting the core as a set of guidelines.  In this example, the researchers worked within the boundaries of the healthcare system, using pediatricians to reach parents and accepting the existing approved U.S. growth chart as a basis for determining whether children are obese as the core.  Those who take a more innovative approach are less concerned about boundaries and consider them flexible while avoiding the core and preferring less structure.  The First Lady took a new approach to the problem, expanding the boundaries by reaching out to get everyone in the community involved and creating new dietary requirements in schools.  Her focus is less about raising awareness among only parents to increasing awareness among the nation.  She also redesigned the food pyramid rather than accepting the core as the status quo and working with those factors.  Jablokow writes, “in order for a person or group to progress (indeed, to survive), they must perceive all relevant opportunities (i.e. determine which are germane and concentrate on those), generate the motive to exploit what they perceive, and deploy the required levels (capabilities) and the appropriate styles to solve each specific problem” (2005, p. 544).  Nine years of technological, political, and social changes have provided new opportunities for reaching people and improving awareness of a problem like childhood obesity. 

There were a few limitations in the research study that could be improved.  I think it would be beneficial to conduct the studies in more than one geographic location.  The study only considered one pediatrician’s office in New York.  The study could also build in the socioeconomic status of the participants and whether or not the parents are obese so that a gauge of their eating habits can be established.  I am also curious to know if socioeconomic status has an impact on healthy eating habits and perceptions of childhood obesity.  Further research could be done about why parents have the misperceptions of their child’s weight.

I believe the important aspect of the article is not the method they recommended to approach the problem but rather than they like the First Lady recognize that behaviors must be modified to address the problem of childhood obesity.  As a professional, I plan to implement what I have learned through one of the most interesting components of my job.  A function of my current position is teaching Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) courses to women, many of whom are parents, educators, and/or are actively engaged in the community.  As I facilitate these courses and we engage in physical activity through practicing defensive techniques, we talk about being healthy.  This provides an opportunity to discuss of the common misperceptions about childhood obesity and increase awareness of the First Lady’s national campaign.  Considering this study and First Lady Obama’s work this could also be implemented in a volunteer capacity.  I could work through some local K-12 schools to create committees and partnerships with the community that would focus on awareness of childhood obesity and the resources available now on a national level for programs that focus on healthy eating and activities.

 

References

Jablokow, K. W. (2005). The catalytic nature of science: Implications for scientific problem solving in the 21st century. Technology in Society, 27, 531-549. doi: 10.1016/j.techsoc.2005.08.006.

Let’s move: America’s move to raise a healthier generation of kids. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.letsmove.gov/.

Schwarz, S. M. (2012, December 12). Obesity in children. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/985333-overview.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Servant Leadership and the VT Corps of Cadets

What?

Col. Dave Miller, Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets

Last year, I had the opportunity to work with Col. Dave Miller with the Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets for my first practicum experience.  The main purpose of the experience was to assist Col. Miller to develop online courses for the Corps students unable to participate in his leadership courses because of scheduling conflicts.  Not only were the course materials interesting but before I developed the online content I took several weeks to learn about the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech by interacting with people throughout the organization.  While educating students about leadership and helping them to identify their own philosophy the Corps operates using a servant leadership approach.  I remember being surprised to find out the Corps utilizes the servant leadership approach because of the structure, nature, and hierarchy of the organization.  However, as I observed and interacted with members of the organization there were clear examples of the servant leadership approach.  For example, the organization as a whole spends a significant amount of time putting the followers first placing an effort on the motivational aspect of each student’s development.  I was able to observe junior year cadets interviewing for leadership positions and hear them articulate their leadership philosophy.  I was very impressed that they could share and explain their philosophy using a variety of leadership methods and approaches.

So What?

In Leadership: Theory and Practice, Northouse writes about servant leadership explaining, “servant leadership is an approach focusing on leadership from the point of view of the leader and his or her behaviors.  Servant leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them. (p. 219).”  Northouse utilizes a model of servant leadership based on Liden, Wayne, Zhao, and Henderson (2008) and Liden, Pannaccio, Hu, and Meuser (in press) (p. 225) to explain servant leadership and explain the framework of the approach.

Several of the “Servant Leader Behaviors” bulleted within the model directly correlate with the characteristics and behaviors found on the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets 8 pylons located central to campus. The pylons include brotherhood, honor, leadership, loyalty, service, sacrifice, duty, and Ut Prosim.  The Corps provides a unique opportunity for students to learn about leadership and live in an environment fostering the servant leadership approach.

Now What?

While servant leadership is one of the methods I identify with it was interesting to be in a situation where it was being learned and practiced in a military structured environment like the Corps of Cadets.  The students are learning how to apply the approach in a variety of different situations and types of organizations through the use of case studies, scenarios, etc.  However, I thought it was interesting to learn during our Northouse reading that servant leadership does not work for everyone and is not always welcomed.  Some of the cadets will serve in the military but many will be employed in civilian fields.  It is important for those students and I to learn when servant leadership is a useful approach and when another approach may be better suited rather than just assume this is the best method to utilize in all opportunities for leadership.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Team Leadership and Youth Football…

What?

One of the most impactful examples of leadership has been watching my 10 year old son’s Junior League football team this season.  This is the third season Bryson has played tackle football through the local Parks and Recreation Department and each year he has had a different coach.  The first two seasons he played, the teams he was on never won a game and this season the team he is on has won every game.  I’m not a parent who measures my son’s success based on the number of wins his team has.  I measure his success by the skills and knowledge he learns while also having fun.  I want Bryson to enjoy playing however; that enjoyment had faded after two seasons of losing every game.  I knew this year; Bryson would either love the game or hate the game because not only had he never been on a winning team but also because his coach this year is very driven and serious about working hard to win.  At first glance, I thought the reason for the difference in the team’s record this year was that the coach had stacked the team with some above average athletes who could run complex plays that other teams did not have the skill level to execute.  After spending several months observing the practices and games, I’ve realized that while the kids selected by the coach play a major factor in the team’s success there are other contributing factors that help explain their record this year.  Those factors can be found when examining team leadership within the Junior League team.

So What?

In Leadership: Theory and Practice, Northouse writes about team leadership defining a team as a, “specific type of group composed of members who are interdependent, who share common goals, and who must coordinate their activities to accomplish these goals (p. 287).”  Northouse utilizes Hill’s Model for Team Leadership to explain team leadership.

The coach Bryson has this year has served in this role for several years and over time has learned how to navigate the internal and external actions needed to help his football teams be effective.  It has been interesting to see the model exercised in the dynamics of the Junior League team.  Some of the internal task actions the coach takes are encouraging the team members to work hard during practices so that they can have fun during the games which helps focus goals and provide structure for results while training how to play the game.  An example of an external environmental action is when the coach watches opponent’s games so that he can assess the team and see the plays that team is playing.

Bryson and one of his coaches. This was one of the seasons when he enjoyed playing but didn’t win any games.

Now What?

Although developed for around work teams I think it’s interesting that Hill’s Model for Team Leadership can be applied to a youth football team.  However, I think it is important to point out that team effectiveness as described by the model is not measured only by how many wins the team has.  As a parent, I think this is one of the most valuable lessons I can teach my children.  Hard work, dedication, and enjoying what they do will help them be successful.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Situational Approach

What?

One of my primary responsibilities as Business Manager at the Virginia Tech Police Department is human resources which includes recruiting and hiring Police Officers.  Ideal candidates for these positions are those with previous law enforcement experience however, it is difficult to hire candidates with experience because of the competitive nature of the profession.  Another challenge for a campus law enforcement agency is hiring candidates who understand the importance of dealing with and talking to people, specifically college-age people.  Candidates with prior experience have often worked in localities where a stronger emphasis was placed on enforcement rather than community policing.  Frequently, the candidates selected for Police Officer positions have little or no previous law enforcement experience causing employees to be at various levels of knowledge, development, and experience while being exposed to a multitude of situations.  This causes patrol shifts to be comprised of officers who also have varying degrees of knowledge, development, and experience.

So What?

In Leadership: Theory and Practice, Northouse writes about the situational approach which focuses on leadership in situations sharing that to be an effective leader using the situational approach, “requires that a person adapt his or her style to the demands of different situations (p. 99).”  The Police Department provides opportunities for Sergeants to practice situational leadership because they supervise five Police Officers with varying degrees of knowledge and experience.  They could be supervising an officer with seven years of experience and an officer who just completed the police academy at the same time and through the same situation.  To utilize this approach Sergeants must consider both parts of the Situational Leadership II (SLII) model which are leadership style and the development level of subordinates (p. 100).

The SLII model defines four leadership styles to include:  directing (S1), coaching (S2), supporting (S3), and delegating (S4).  These leadership styles are complimented by four categories of development ranging from D1 to D4, from low development to high development while also measuring commitment levels (p. 102).

Sergeants are leading a diverse group of officers who range from D1 to D4 on the model.  An officer with several years of experience may be a D3 or D4 while an officer who just graduated from the policy academy may be a D1 or D2.  Their development level directly correlates with the leadership style needed to deal with the situation so a new officer would likely be a S1 or S2 requiring a highly directive approach.

 

Now What?

In my current role, I work to identify professional development opportunities for leaders within the Police Department.  We send all of our leaders to a supervisory school such as the Institute for Leadership in Changing Times that tailor specifically with supervising in law enforcement.  Handling stress under pressure is an important factor discussed in these trainings as well.  In the future, I believe it would be beneficial to offer these leadership training opportunities to officers who are not in supervisory roles because they are also leaders who can apply the situational leadership approach.  I can also see a benefit in employees understanding where they are in the SLII model so I would like to explore the possibility of providing information and encouraging discussions so that employees could have a basic understanding of the SLII model and the situational approach to leadership.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leadership and Power

What?

“People lead and people follow.”  That’s how our conversation about leadership started.  A colleague named John and I started talking about the course I’m taking this semester, its relevance to where we work and to life in general.  John is a former Marine who now works as a Police Officer in the same department I work in at Virginia Tech.  While John was joking with his initial simplified definition of leadership it started an interesting conversation about his experiences in the Marines and specifically the use of power as influence during his military career.  What surprised me about our conversation were the similarities between what John experienced in the Marines and the time he has spent as a Police Officer.  One of the primary functions of my position is human resources which includes recruiting and hiring Police Officers for the Virginia Tech Police Department.  Candidates selected as officers must successfully complete a 19-week police academy in a para-military environment.  They are exposed to a formal rank structure both in the academy and once they begin working as an officer at the department.  I also assist with the professional development of the department’s employees to help provide them with necessary skills to advance up the ranks within the Police Department.

So What?

In Leadership: Theory and Practice, Northouse describes power as, “the capacity or potential in influence” (p. 10).  Position power and personal power are the two major types of power mentioned by Northouse.  Position power in the Marines and Police Department are clearly defined by a formal rank structure and personal power is influence a leader has when being viewed as knowledgeable and likeable by their followers.  John talked about how his time spent in basic training and the police academy consisted of primarily position power as influence from leaders and then a progression to personal power as he received more training, responsibility, experience, and advanced through the ranks.

Northouse uses the five bases of power identified by French and Raven to provide further detail on the importance of power in the influence process (p. 10).  The five bases of power referenced are: referent, expert, legitimate, reward, and coercive.  Table 1.1 below provides a description of each type of power.

During our conversation, John provided examples of each of the five bases of power being demonstrated during his military and police careers.  He stated he felt that each had its own way of motivating different followers and being successful for different leaders depending on the situation.

Now What?

After my conversation with John, I realized that when we are considering candidates for Police Officer positions we look for certain personality characteristics but do not give a lot of consideration to how the candidate will follow or how they will be influenced by power.  The police academy can be a very trying and stressful so we should be more intentional about preparing selected candidates for the types of power they may be exposed to while there.  It would also be beneficial to either ask questions during promotional processes to determine whether potential candidates for advancement recognize the influence power has on leadership or to include this information to selected promotional candidates.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment