According to officials at the New York City Health Department, severe obesity among public school children is down 10% as of the 2010-11 school year.
“It’s good news,” said Christine Johnson of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which conducted the study. “We found that severe obesity has gone down in New York City schoolchildren in kindergarten to 8th grade. It’s decreasing even faster than the rate of decline we see overall in obesity.”
The report looked at the overall weight and height data taken on the 947,765 students between the ages of 5 and 14 in New York’s public schools in 2006 and compared that to the same data in the 2010 school year.
“Severe obesity among NYC public school students in grades K–8 decreased 9.5 percent from the 2006–07 school year (when it was 6.3 percent) to the 2010–11 school year (to 5.7 percent), and obesity decreased 5.5 percent (from 21.9 percent to 20.7 percent),” they wrote in their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Pediatrics.
For a child to be considered overweight they must be in the 85th to 95th percentile of the body mass index (BMI) for children their age. Anything over that is considered obese.
According to Sharon Begley for Reuters, for the New York study, childhood obesity was highest among boys, minorities, and poor children.
“Wealthier families have access to things poor families do not,” said Skinner, everything from soccer camp to safe neighborhood playgrounds.
Studies show that 6% of children in the United States are considered obese, and that obese children are almost certain to become obese adults. These children already suffer from such ailments as heart disease and diabetes, writes Maggie Fox for NBC. However, the studies show a decline in obesity among the youngest children, who are also the most easily influenced.
According to Johnson, schools are focusing more on helping kids exercise and eat better foods. Traditional school lunches have been replaced with healthier alternatives, and some schools have begun planting gardens with edible plants, reported Corinne Lestch for The New York Daily News.
The Department of Education rolled out a program called Move to Improve, that trains teachers on ways to incorporate fitness into their classrooms, from taking imaginary nature walks while walking in place to dancing.
While the report is encouraging, 21% of the public school children in New York City were still reportedly obese in the 2012-13 school year.
“We are encouraged that the obesity rate has gone down, but we must also be mindful of the 21% obesity rate among K-8 students,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina. “Fitness and wellness are top priorities for the administration and is critical for students to come to school ready to learn, and thrive both inside the classroom and beyond.”