by Claire Miller
As a father and former basketball coach, Elgin Andrews has become keenly aware of the struggles teenagers face when it comes to body image and weight.
“I don’t think most people truly understand how the health of our youth has changed, especially in urban and rural areas,” said Andrews, a doctoral student in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health. “To see an obese child in an urban school is no longer an anomaly – it’s the norm. Children are no longer expected to be healthier or to live longer than their parents, so what was a blip on the health horizon is now a worldwide crisis.”
Andrews is taking what he learned as a former high school science teacher and coach and applying it to what he’s learning in his exercise physiology doctoral program. His research focuses on the social, cultural, psychological and physiological roadblocks to children’s healthy habits.
To get a better grasp of children’s health, Andrews is working with After-School All-Stars Atlanta (ASAS) – a program run through the Kinesiology and Health Department that provides comprehensive after-school programs for at-risk students in the metro-Atlanta area – to study how curriculum and policy can be geared toward urban youth to increase their overall health.
“Working with ASAS has allowed me to see how public policy is made, to work with organizations that cater to youth and to learn from professionals in the field of nutrition and physical activity,” he said. “I have been able to see how neighborhoods can come together to plant their own organic produce and how schools and communities can develop agendas that promote physical activity.”
Though administrators must make academic excellence a priority, Andrews hopes that schools see the importance of having well-rounded after-school programs that address health and wellness issues.
“Policy makers and school administrators are judged on tangible results like standardized test scores, not on the health status of their students or community,” he said. “One of the best lessons that I have learned is that you can focus on education and increase test scores while delivering a quality after-school program that addresses obesity, like the ASAS program has done in Atlanta.”