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POLL: How Obese (or Not) are MV Children?

UCLA study finds that more than a third of California kids are overweight or obese.

Santa Clara County has less overweight or obese children compared to the rest of the state, a new report shows.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and California Center for Public Health Advocacy Monday released a study, "Overweight and Obesity among Children by California Cities – 2010," based on the California Department of Education’s  2010 Physical Fitness Tests for fifth, seventh, and ninth grade students. Compared to the state's 38 percent, 32.9 percent of the children in Santa Clara County were obese. But not factored in were the statistics for Mountain View students.

"We also excluded cities if the fitness test data was reported for less than 70 percent of the enrolled 5th, 7th, and 9th grade students," said Dr. Susan Babey, the senior research scientist. "That was the case for Mountain View."

According to the report, state law mandates that public schools administer the PFT annually to all California students. The researchers obtained the results from the state and used the results of the Body Mass Index (BMI) to get the overweight and obese figures for 11 of the 14 incorporated cities in the county. Also missing were Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Babey explained that "the short answer is that compliance is not 100 percent" so statistics for children enrolled in the Mountain View Whisman and Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District were excluded.

"The state mandates the test, but it is an unfunded mandate," Babey said. "Schools have to conduct the test using their existing resources."

Mountain View Patch reached out to the school districts for comment and will updated this article when a comment is received.

A BMI between the 85th and 95th percentile is considered overweight basd on the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sex- and age- specific growth charts. Obesity is defined as having a BMI above the 95th percentile.

Data from more than 250 other cities and 1,214,061 was analyzed and shows major discrepancy in childhood obesity based on geographic location and ethnicity.

In Palo Alto, 18.4 percent of children are overweight or obese. Gilroy had the highest percentage of overweight or obese children in the county, with 43.6 percent and Los Gatos the lowest at 15.4 percent.

"Currently, African American girls and Mexican American boys in the United States have the highest rates of childhood obesity," the report said. "Recent
research suggests that these disparities are mirrored in California, with higher rates of obesity and overweight among Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians than among whites and Asians."

Statewide, Manhattan Beach marked the lowest percentage, at 11, and Huntington Park came in nearly five times that, and 53 percent.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the study considered rates among children in incorporated cities with populations of at least 20,000 and a PFT reporting of at least 70 percent.

In school age children, the resport states that "obesity causes decreased productivity, restricted activity, absenteeism, and future value lost by premature death." Overall nationally, medical costs alone for obesity
reach $147 billion each year, according to the report.

A list of policy recommendations by the study’s authors is available here, and includes maintaining the requirement for physical fitness testing, eliminating unhealthy food and beverages from schools, and providing incentives for grocery stores with quality food to set up shop in low-income neighborhoods.


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