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Lloyd Kolbe
School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation

Debra Kent
School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation

Tracy James
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

IU professor to help China provide daily physical activity for school children

"Sunny Sports China" to reach 320 million youth

June 17, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University public health expert Lloyd Kolbe has been asked by the Chinese government to help it implement new national guidelines requiring the country's 1.6 million schools to provide students with daily physical activity. The move is an attempt to reverse a burgeoning obesity problem in China.

Kolbe, a professor of applied health science in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, is no stranger to school health issues or China. Before coming to IU, he served as the founding director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Adolescent and School Health. He also has been involved in various health projects in China since the late 1980s.

The Chinese initiative, aimed at the nation's 320 million school children, is called "Sunny Sports China." Kolbe said government officials want their sports universities to continue producing elite athletes. But they also want them to focus more on helping citizens to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines through programs such as "Sunny Sports China," which will also include a recreational component for leisure time.

"And they want to make physical activity fun. They're very clear about that," Kolbe said. "They want to use 'Sunny Sports China' to develop character. I think we in the U.S. can learn much from China and I'm delighted that they've asked IU to work with them to design this initiative. The university could gain much from our participating, working with our colleagues in China."

Kolbe traveled to China and Taiwan recently with a delegation of HPER administrators including Dean Robert M. Goodman. They met with various government officials involved with this initiative and visited several universities. The School of HPER signed or renewed international agreements with six universities in China, including Peking University School of Public Health, Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong, Beijing Sport University and Shanghai Sports University. The School of HPER also renewed an agreement with Taiwan National Sports University.

Chinese Physical Education

Chinese youth wear the "Sunny Sports China" uniform on the cover of this informational publication.

Print-Quality Photo

Kolbe said China is struggling largely with three issues involving nutrition and obesity. A portion of its citizens still struggle to have enough to eat, thus, are underweight. Childhood obesity is on the rise, particularly in affluent urban areas. The country also is seeing "stunting," where young children do not receive enough micronutrients -- vital vitamins and minerals -- in addition to the dense, high-fat foods that they eat. As a result, they are obese but their growth is stunted.

Kolbe plans to enlist the help of his colleagues at the School of HPER, whose faculty have extensive experience implementing school health and physical education programs as well as recreational programming outside of the schools. The "Sunny Sports" program, on which he has been working during the past year, will be designed to measure its success through improved fitness levels in students and reductions in unhealthy weight.

Kolbe, who has visited China regularly for more than 20 years, said he continues to be impressed by the continued improvements brought on by an expanding economy. He said IU and the School of HPER stand to gain from scholarly collaborations.

"We can learn from each other, combine our intellectual and fiscal resources to do the kinds of research that otherwise could not be done," he said. "Secondly, I think this is a major way to bring two great nations together, to have the universities of these nations modeling what can be done in an increasingly globalized world where mutual compassion, harmony and prosperity for all is the focus -- instead of competition and antagonistic relationships."

Lloyd Kolbe can be reached at 812-856-6781 and