Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Health Sciences


Health and Medical Sciences


Terrence Cahill, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Genevieve Pinto-Zipp, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Annette Kirchgessner, Ph.D.


body mass index, childhood obesity, overweight, epidemic, prevention, treatment


Background and Purpose of Study: Childhood and adolescent obesity is becoming an increasingly large problem in the United States (Bruss et al., 2010). The epidemic of obesity and associated diseases poses a serious public health challenge. A major concern is the dramatic and continuing increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children. The prevalence of overweight school-aged children in the United States is estimated to have tripled since 1980 (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2012). Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure (Ogden, Carroll, Curtin, Lamb & Flegal, 2010). Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem (Ogden et al., 2010). Obese children are more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore are more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis (Wyatt, Winters & Dubbert, 2006). Across the United States, childhood obesity and

the absence of physical activity continues to impact the current and future health of children (Borrud et al., 2014). This study assessed the public high physical education (PE) teachers’ perceptions of their role in impacting childhood obesity and the school’s role in addressing childhood obesity.

Methods: The design of this study was a descriptive, exploratory, cross-sectional survey research. A convenience sample from New Jersey public high school district websites that included a snowball technique was sent a questionnaire and 259 PE teachers qualified. Internal reliability of the questionnaire was 0.930. Descriptive statistics, Independent sample t-tests, Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Post hoc Analysis were used to analyze and interpret the data.

Results: High school PE teachers overwhelmingly agree that childhood obesity is a serious health risk. They believe that too little physical activity, consuming too many calories, and eating the wrong foods contributes to the cause of obesity. Male PE teachers perceived more than female PE teachers that schools were serving a role in addressing childhood obesity. PE teachers’ perceptions about the roles the school nurse and the school counselor play in addressing childhood obesity were slightly affected by years-of-teaching experience. High school PE teachers do feel that their background in PE is sufficient to assist children in developing appropriate exercise and eating behaviors and believe that they have the skills to structure weight loss programs for children, but almost 1/3 of high school PE teachers felt that their college program did not prepare them when it comes to designing exercise programs for obese children.

Conclusion: Childhood obesity is becoming one of the greatest public health, social, and economic challenges. Without the support from schools, it is unlikely that the epidemic will change. Within the mission of schools, promoting physical activity and healthy eating is fundamental. PE teachers and schools can help students adopt and maintain healthy eating and physical behaviors. Students must be educated to become active, healthy, productive contributors to society.