Changes in Overweight and Obesity Among California 5th, 7th, and 9th Graders, 2005-2010

OVERVIEW. On November 9, 2011, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released the study, A Patchwork of Progress: Changes in Overweight and Obesity Among California 5th, 7th, and 9th Graders, 2005-2010. The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, offers hope that the state may be getting a handle on its 30-year battle with childhood obesity, but also showcases a patchwork of progress that leaves the majority of counties in the state still registering increases in obesity rates among school-age children.

To determine whether there have been changes in California’s childhood obesity epidemic since CCPHA’s 2005 report, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research examined changes in overweight and obesity among 5th, 7th, and 9th grade school children in California using data from the California Department of Education’s 2005 and 2010 Physical Fitness Tests. Rates from 2005 and 2010 and percentage changes are reported for each county and by regions. Read the policy brief here.

The study found the percentage of overweight and obese children in the state dropped 1.1 percent from 2005 to 2010. However, 38 percent of children are still either overweight or obese. These figures suggest that a 30-year trend in increasing childhood obesity rates may be leveling off, though rates are still three times higher among 12- to 19-year-olds and four times higher among 6- to 11-year-olds than they were in the 1970s. At the same time, improvements are not being seen evenly throughout the state, with 31 of California’s 58 counties experiencing an increase in childhood overweight over the five-year period from 2005 to 2010. To see an interactive database of 2005-2010 childhood obesity rates by county, click here.

The epidemic of childhood obesity will not be solved by calling for individual behavior change alone. To address this health crisis, state and local leaders must address the conditions in schools and communities that contribute to the epidemic and undermine parents’ efforts to protect their children’s health. Actions that can be taken are included on this list of policy recommendations.

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