California Endowment Survey Finds Rising Levels of Obesity, Poor Nutrition Among School Children

According to new survey results released last week by the California Endowment, school-based health measures are a key factor in addressing rising levels of poor nutrition and childhood obesity in the Golden state.

Highlights and analysis from "California Children's Healthy Eating and Exercise Practices Survey," the first-ever nutrition and physical activity survey of California elementary school children, show that most 9- to 11-year-olds are not meeting basic dietary and physical activity guidelines — behaviors that contribute to a third of those fourth- and fifth-graders being at-risk for obesity or already overweight. Moreover, the study warns that obesity is just the most visible symptom of many serious health problems caused by poor eating and physical inactivity levels.

"Our preconceptions of playgrounds filled with noisy, active children brimming with health are not always true," commented Robert Ross, MD, president and CEO of the Woodland Hills-based Endowment, the state's largest health foundation. "We're alarmed to find that the increased obesity rate in our children mirrors the increase of obesity in the general population. Since children are still growing and developing, and are thus more vulnerable to the health risks associated with being overweight or obese, these findings are extremely disturbing."

Children identified as at-risk or already overweight shared several common behaviors, including trading healthy fruits and vegetables for sodas and high-fat, low-nutrient snacks and fast foods. According to the Berkeley-based Public Health Institute, which authored the report, the findings validate key education and school-based health policy recommendations, including funding for better school meal and after-school snack programs, presently under consideration by the state and federal government.

"School Programs Key to Correcting State's Mounting Childhood Health Crisis" California Endowment Press Release 05/08/2001.