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Childhood Obesity Drops in Southern California

Child eating a sandwich at school. Credit: fidlerjan/morguefile
Child eating a sandwich at school. Credit: fidlerjan/morguefile
October 7, 2015

Childhood obesity rates have dropped in the past five years in Southern California, according to a recent report.

The study from Kaiser Permanente found that obesity rates fell by 1.6 percent and the number of overweight children decreased by 2.2 percent. Part of the credit goes to programs such as Activate Whittier, which promotes exercise and healthy eating.

Cristina Obregon, director of food services for the Whittier City School District, said school cafeterias now offer healthier food.

"They have choices on the salad bar that include the dark, green leafy salad mix and cherry tomatoes or sliced cucumber," she said. "The kids have the option to pick and choose."

Activate Whittier chair Lori Tiffany said the whole idea was born in 2008 after a report showed that the child obesity rate had reached 25 percent. So her group now helps schools and workplaces make changes.

For example, Tiffany advised schools to stop selling sugary foods as fundraisers and sponsor events to promote exercise.

"So anybody passionate about a healthier community, they have to forge partnerships, they have to build relationships," she said, "and then you've got to find the places where there's political will to make a change."

One such partnership is with Kaiser Permanente, which supports Activate Whittier with a grant.

Loel Solomon, vice president of Community Health for Kaiser Permanente, said better health for all means spreading the word.

"People coming together and realizing that to secure the blessings of health requires more than doctors and hospitals and medical care," he said. "It means that we have to work outside of our medical office buildings and our hospitals with partners to address those big conditions that really drive health."

The study, which looked at medical records for 173,000 children in Orange County, showed that the rate of childhood obesity went from 19.1 percent in 2008 down to 17.5 percent in 2013. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent of children nationally are obese.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA