California's Child Obesity and Overweight Rate Down by 1%

TOPIC ALERT:

The rate of overweight and obese children increased in many California counties from 2005 to 2010, but the state's overall rate of overweight and obese children fell slightly, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, the Visalia Times-Standard reports (Visalia Times-Standard, 11/9).

Researchers based the study on data collected in the California Physical Fitness Test given to students attending public schools (Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/9).

Key Findings

Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of overweight and obese children in the fifth, seventh and ninth grades fell by about 1% in California, the study found. Even so, the study found that 38% of children in those grades were overweight or obese.

According to Susan Babey from the Center for Health Policy Research, there was an increase in overweight and obesity rates among children in 31 of the 58 California counties (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 11/8).

Imperial County had the highest rates at 47%, while Marin County had the lowest at 25% (Dills, Napa Valley Register, 11/9).

The study also found that 46.2% of Hispanic children were obese, compared with 29.3% of blacks, 26.1% of whites and 23.9% of Asians (HealthyCal, 11/9).

Researchers noted that California spends more than $21 billion annually on health issues related to obesity (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 11/8).

Comments

Harold Goldstein -- executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy and a co-author of the report -- said that the slight decline in the statewide overweight and obesity rate offers "some reason for hope" but that "the rates are really abysmal and unsustainable" (Loury, Monterey County Herald, 11/9).

Babey said the researchers hope the report will "help community leaders pinpoint and take action in counties in the greatest danger" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 11/8).

Hatti Hamlin
Unfortunately, this study doesn't take into account other factors that might have affected the findings. For example, since it only measures public school children, it is possible the decline is entirely due to a change in the make-up of the public school population. Has the prolonged recession resulted in more children shifting from private schools to public schools? These likely more affluent students typically have a lower rate of obesity. Unless you measure the entire population of school children, you aren't getting a true picture. In fact, the rise in obesity in counties where the lowest percentage of students are enrolled in private schools is consistent with the possibility that there has not been a drop in obesity, but rather a shift in what is being measured.

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