Ruth S. Ammon School of Education Professors Attend International Conference on Obesity

by Mirirai Sithole

On October 26, Assistant Professor Paul Rukavina, Ph.D., and Associate Professor Sarah Doolittle, Ed.D., from the Department of Health Studies, Physical Education and Human Performance Science, embarked on a journey to spend two weeks presenting their research on teaching physical education and childhood obesity prevention at two conferences in Beijing and Suzhou, China.

Childhood Obesity: Dr. Rukavina and Dr. Doolittle Present Research in China - 1Dr. Rukavina and Dr. Doolittle joined about 30 American scholars at the International Conference—Toward the Future: New TiYu Science and Physical Education at Soochow University; a smaller group of scholars presented research at Beijing Sport University. The discussions in Suzhou were based on practical applications of theory while the Beijing conference was research oriented.

Compared to the American practice of promoting independent learning and living a healthy active lifestyle, the Chinese have a highly structured approach to fitness training in their classrooms. Dr. Rukavina believes that, “You can teach critical thinking and social skills through physical education [since] it is a holistic experience of mind, body and social interaction.” In China, he said, personal and social responsibility are not a major focus since their practices are more aerobic, synchronized and competitive.

Since China is undergoing a revolution in industrialization, Dr. Rukavina said there are signs that point to the potential emergence of childhood obesity. He said obesity is not yet a problem in China, but more cars, less bikes and an increase of wealth have contributed to a decrease in fitness levels.

Childhood Obesity: Dr. Rukavina and Dr. Doolittle Present Research in China - 2Dr. Rukavina, who teaches motor behavior and research method classes in Adelphi’s Physical Education Teacher Education Program, has extensive knowledge on childhood obesity.

He is one of three American scholars who wrote a chapter for each of three textbooks:
Elementary Methods
, Secondary Methods and Introduction to Kinesiology, which will be translated from English into Chinese for use in Chinese schools.

Dr. Rukavina also designed a program that features anti-fat attitudes intervention or sensitivity training for physical activity and education specialists. Through this program, professionals discuss the nature of obesity bias to increase sensitivity to the special needs of overweight individuals. Some of the intervention components consist of: raising consciousness and role-playing, as well as discussing
scientific information about the controllability of obesity.

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