243432 College classrooms - not physically friendly to students who are obese

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Alice K. Lindeman, PhD, RD , Department of Applied Health Science, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
More students who are obese and overweight attend college today. Based on NHANES, obesity rates for adolescents has increased continuously from 5.0% in 1976-80 to 18.1% in 2007-08. A national survey found more college students obese in 1999 (8.4%) than in 1994 (5.0%). Meanwhile, seating/desks in classrooms have not significantly changed in size/style since the 1970s. Purpose: to evaluate classroom accommodations for students who are obese Methods: Seating number and type in all classrooms at a large Midwestern public university was categorized a priori as amphitheater (AMP), conference (CONF), table/row (ROW), and single desk (SNGL). Comfortable waist circumference (WC) for seating was determined as g(distance between back of desk to seat back). Results: 270 classrooms ranged from 10 to 418 seats; X±SD 58.0+58.6. Classification: 16.7% AMP; 6.7% CONF; 20% ROW; 56.6% SNGL. All AMP seats had arms/sides and flip-up desks; calculated WC: 38.5". SNGL desks with molded one-piece seats provided less room than those with separate seat and back (calculated WC: 35.4" and 51.1", respectfully.) All AMP and 15.5% SNGL classrooms included 2-6 table/chair seats, complying with ADA. Discussion: NHANES 2003-04 report WC for men and women, age 20-29 yr as 37.04±0.04 and 34.84±0.51, respectively. AMP and some SNGL classrooms could be uncomfortable and difficult to negotiate, except for the few table/chairs provided. Few medium/small classrooms provided this optional seating. Students learn best when treated with respect. Obesity is an accepted discrimination in the classroom rectifiable by incorporating more tables/chairs into all classrooms to better accommodate students who are obese.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Describe alterations in classrooms to accommodate obese students

Keywords: Obesity, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I teach college students every day in classrooms like those analyzed and I conducted the research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.