Study: Childhood obesity numbers improve slightly

November 9, 2011 7:02:40 PM PST
California is making some progress in the fight against childhood obesity, but it's still a serious problem. According to a new report, one out of every three kids is considered overweight or obese. There is both good and bad news in this new study.

The report itself is called "A Patchwork of Progress" and that is what the numbers look like. After climbing for decades, the statewide obesity rate for kids has leveled off and actually decreased 1.1 percent in the past five years.

Ryan Elementary School in San Jose is attacking childhood obesity with a number of programs, one focused on physical activity, is called Playworks.

"Playworks is all about giving kids the opportunity for safe, meaningful play and we just want to make sure the kids are getting involved and not off sitting on the sidelines watching," said Jennifer Madison, a Playworks coach.

A new report shows in California 38 percent of 5th, 7th and 9th graders are considered overweight or obese. Most Bay Area counties fair better than the state average, but in the past five years local numbers have actually crept up. Since 2005 there has been a 3.5 percent increase in Contra Costa County and a nearly 3 percent increase in Alameda County. Many districts are trying to reverse the trend with more nutritious food in the cafeteria.

"They give us salad and grapes and little carrots," said Valeria Cortez, a 5th grade student.

In Santa Clara County, there's a campaign called "Rethink your drink," telling kids to grab water instead of a soda.

"It has to be systemic, it's the students, it's the teachers, it's adults because we are the role models," said Douglas Paganelli, the Ryan Elementary School principal.

Kaiser Permanente's chief of pediatrics, Dr. Chynna Bantug, is encouraged the statewide childhood obesity numbers appear to be leveling off, but says much more needs to be done.

"If we do not deal with this epidemic, this is the first generation of that will be facing a shorter life span their parents," said Bantug.

That's why back at Ryan Elementary School, what looks like child's play is really serious business and the students seem to get it.

"If you are fit, you could maybe even live longer, have a healthier life, physically and maybe even mentally," said Miguel Lemus, a 5th grade student.

The report indicates that more than half of California's 58 counties saw an increase in the overweight and obesity rate for kids between 2005 and 2010.

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