In today’s supersized culture, it is important that all of us take responsiblity to advocate for improved health but administrators at Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania are taking their role as health advocates very seriously. In fact, some critics argue that the predominately African-American college may be taking their concern for the health of their students a bit too far.
Students at Lincoln University who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater must take a health class that meets three hours each week. If they fail to complete the course, they cannot graduate. Having a BMI of 30 or greater is a classification that denotes an individual is obese and therefore is at risk for numerous health consequences such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, respiratory difficulties and quality of life issues.
The class is called “Fitness for Life” and it encourages students to become more active by having them participate in a range of physical fitness activities like Tae-Bo, water aerobics and dance.
According to CNN, 620 students have either tested out or taken the course, with 80 remaining to get their BMI evaluated.
The mandatory class, which was approved in 2006 by Lincoln University, is aimed to alter the precarious health path that being overweight or obese follows and for African-Americans, they are perhaps the most disproportionately impacted group in the country.
According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’, Office of Minority Health, African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight and obese in comparison to all other groups in the U.S. Four out of five African-American women are overweight and obese and the impact of the extra weight carried by this minority group, cannot be underestimated. Heart disease ranks as the number one killer, rates of diabetes are double than non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans have the highest rates of high blood pressure than any group in the country and tend to develop it younger in life.
It is a culmination of these alarming statistics as well as the well-intentioned, albeit a bit paternalistic, efforts by Lincoln University to institute the mandatory fitness course.
“We, as educators, must tell students when we believe, in our heart of hearts, when certain factors, certain behaviors, attitudes, whatever, are going to hinder that student from achieving and maximizing their life goals,” says Charles DeBoy, chairman of the school’s Department of Health and Physical Education.
“Obesity is going to rob you of your quality and quantity of life. “We believe that this is unconscionable,” DeBoy’s comments.