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Obesity Drops Among City K-8 Students Overall

Thursday, December 15, 2011

education, classroom, school, school supplies, class, teachers, students (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Obesity rates have declined among New York City's public schoolchildren in kindergarten through eighth grade over the past five years, said a government study published Thursday.

The study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said obesity dropped from 22 to 21 percent overall between the 2006-2007 and 2010-11 school years.

The report called it the biggest documented decline in childhood obesity in a large U.S. city.

City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the report validates public health policies aimed at combating the decades-long rise in obesity rates among children. "That ever-rising tide of obesity is finally beginning to ebb," he said.

He pointed out that national obesity rates have plateaued or increased slightly, making the findings of the report that much more significant.

The study analyzed body mass index data collected by physical education teachers using standard guidelines and reported to the Department of Health. It found that while obesity decreased for children in all groups, black and Hispanic children lagged. The largest decrease was in children aged 5 to 6 years of age, from 20 percent to 18 percent.

Farley said more needs to be done to get the rates down among low-income and black and Hispanic children.

"Unfortunately the benefits of this are not in the children that need it the most," he said.

The report notes several policy changes from 2003 to 2009 that might have contributed such as regulations to improve nutrition, increased physical activity time and changes to cafeteria food. Modifications to cafeteria food included switching from whole milk to 1 percent fat and skim milk in 2005.

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