Date of Conferral
Leonard F. Smith, Ph.D.
This study was undertaken for the purpose of seeing how a health counseling program for overweight adolescent girls could be developed in a secondary high school setting. Initially, the study developed out of an awareness and concern for the problem of obesity among teenage girls, especially those in a secondary school. To provide a strong background for the use in both planning and executing a health counseling program, the study reviewed the health literature dealing especially with several topics:
a. The prevalence of obesity.
b. The relationship of obesity to mental and physical health.
c. The influence of food faddisms and quackery on obesity.
d. The etiology of obesity including hereditary, endocrine, metabolic, environmental and psychological factors.
In addition, the study involved a survey of school nurse-teacher health counseling programs in schools within the administrative area established for health programs by the New York State Department of
Education. To provide information about the general social and communal context of the adolescent girls to be included in the health counseling program, the study drew on the summary of community characteristics provided by an eleven. member North Shore High School Faculty Committee in preparation for the school's evaluation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
From the information about the problem of obesity and the scarcity of school health counseling programs, the school nurse-teacher with the cooperation of members of the Physical Education, Home Economics, and Guidance Departments as well as the Psychological and Medical Services, devised a six-month pilot health counseling program. The program included a careful selection of sateen overweight girls who were twenty or more pounds over their desired weight according to the Baldwin-Wood standardized Weight-Height-Age Table.
Weekly individual counseling sessions followed by monthly group meetings were established. A physical exercise program came about as an outgrowth of the monthly group meetings. Nutritional education, retraining of eating habits, stimulation of diverse interest and encouragement of physical activity formed the nucleus of the counseling sessions. The primary focus centered around appearance and dress with the basic aim to establish good nutritional habits and a healthy, wholesome pattern of daily living. Social reinforcement and supportive reassurance were paramount in the relationship between the health counselor and counselee.
The results of the six-month pilot study showed an overall weight loss of 22 pounds among the sixteen counseled girls as contrasted to a weight increase of 76 pounds among the sixteen uncounseled group.
An improvement in personal appearance, attitudinal realism about the weight problem, along with self-acceptance, were changes evident with the counseled group. The results of this pilot study have implications both within the high school and beyond. The program developed in the pilot study is continuing in the high school. Programs based upon the design offered in this study could be extended throughout the community starting in the elementary schools and reaching out into the community health agencies.
The study shows that a thoroughly informed school nurse-teacher by means of detailed planning and program execution is in a strategic position to offer her expertise in assisting the student with a weight problem. If additional studies beyond this pilot study bear out the results of this study, then adeqt.1ately prepared health counseling programs can serve as one means of prevention and control of the problem of overweight among the high school students.