The Ethical Basis for Promoting Nutritional Health in Public Schools in the United States

Schools may have an ethical obligation to act in response to the precipitous increase in the incidence of obesity among children.

Using a bioethics framework, we present a rationale for school programs to improve the nutritional quality of students’ diets. Because children are required to spend half their waking hours in school and because they consume a substantial portion of their daily food there, school is a logical focus for efforts to encourage healthy dietary behaviors to prevent obesity and its consequent individual and collective costs.

The authors of this study suggest that beyond strategic considerations, the concept of the common good justifies actions that may appear to conflict with freedom of choice of children, parents and school staff, or with the interests of food and beverage companies.

This article highlights ideas generated and conclusions reached at the Symposium on Ethical Issues in Interventions for Childhood Obesity, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Data for Solutions, Inc.