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By Jose A. Alvarez, County of San Diego Communications Office

Video by James Kecskes

May 30, 2017 (San Diego's East County) - More than one-third of local fifth, seventh and ninth graders in public schools are overweight or obese.

This the key finding in the 2016 State of Childhood Obesity report released today by the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, a public-private partnership tasked with reducing and preventing childhood obesity in the region.

The 73-page report looks at the latest body mass index data across the region from the 2014-15 school fitness test and as well as from the Women, Infants and Children program.

The main highlights of the report include:

  • 34.2 percent of San Diego County fifth, seventh and ninth grade students in public schools were overweight (17.4 percent) or obese (16.8 percent).
  • 23.1 percent of Latino students were obese, compared to 10.8 percent of non-Hispanic students.
  • 22.9 percent of economically disadvantaged students were obese, compared to 10 percent who were not.
  • The percentage of overweight and obese students ranged from a low of 15 percent in the Coronado Unified School District to a high of 50 percent in the National School District.

The data used for analysis did not include children attending charter or private schools.

“We’ve got to get the healthy foods in the regular menus,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, County Board of Supervisors. “We’ve got to get away from sugary soft drinks. That is public (health) enemy number one.”

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, child health medical director for the County Health and Human Services Agency, said overweight and obese children are more prone to disease and more likely be overweight as adults. That is why, he said, it’s important that all children have an opportunity to make a healthy choice.

“The report highlights the need to focus on health equity so that all children and families in every neighborhood and community have access to healthy food and safe environments that promote physical activity,” Sidelinger said.

The report also takes a look at community indicators of some environmental and policy areas that the Childhood Obesity Initiative has been working with local jurisdictions to improve.

It showed progress in some indicators at the local level:

  • 19 out of the 42 local school districts have active wellness councils that are tasked with planning and advocating for wellness programs and policies. The 19 school districts cover 72 percent of students in the county.
  • 7 school districts have a strong physical activity and physical education policy.
  • 15 school districts have policy language that addresses nutrition standards for before- and after-school programs.
  • 16 out of 18 cities and the County of San Diego have policies that promote physical activity.
  • 5 of the 18 cities and the County of San Diego have healthy beverage policies.
  • There are 1,375 bikeway miles or 1 out of 7 transportation miles.

Data from WIC showed that 30.2 percent of children were overweight (15.9 percent) or obese (14.3 percent) in 2015 with a higher prevalence among Hispanic children compared to non-Hispanic children.

Also, 232 licensed child care centers and 3,078 family child care homes had healthy nutrition practices and were approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Child and Adult Care Food Program.

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