Despite Efforts, 40 Percent NYC Kids are Overweight
New York City health officials have been making headlines recently on their efforts to improve the health and well-being of its residents. But unfortunately, some of the efforts take time to work. According to the most recent data, 2 out of every 5 of New York City’s “pre-highschoolers”, children from kindergarten to the eighth grade, are either overweight or obese. But the good news is that the number appears to be stabilizing.
School Efforts Have Stabilized Obesity Rates
The data released over the weekend comes from an assessment by the New York City Fitnessgram, a program introduced by the NYC Department of Education in 2005-2006 and now in place across the city. Height and weight measures are collected throughout the school year and converted into body mass index (BMI) measures. These, together with the results of a fitness assessments (ie: body composition, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and aerobic capacity), are sent home to parents.
In 2008-2009, 40% of NYC’s nearly 637,000 elementary and middle school children were overweight or obese. The rate is about the same from the previous year. The national average, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is around 35.5% for children between the ages of 6 and 11.
Poor neighborhoods were most severely affected. For example, 51% of school children in Corona Queens were overweight or obese. In Harlem, 48-49% were over the ideal weight for height, and 47% of children in Washington Heights were affected. In contrast, only 11.7% of children in the city’s affluent Manhattan’s West 60s were overweight or obese.
Cathy Nonas, director of New York City Health Department’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Programs, said “We’re certainly working hard to get it down from here.” The city has recently introduced several measures to address both adult and childhood obesity, such as displaying calories on menus and restricting other unhealthful nutrients in consumer foods such as trans fats and sodium.
Nonas says that the lack of change could signal the beginning of a decline in NYC’s childhood obesity epidemic and that now the figures must be used toward prioritizing efforts in public schools. The City has already replaced whole milk with 1% and banned sugar-sweetened beverages from school vending machines. Future plans include training teachers in “imaginative and fun physical exercises” to use during school breaks.
According to the American Heart Association, obese children have an 80% chance of staying obese their entire lives, leading to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.