School board addresses childhood obesity

Leon County School Board members listened to concerns of the local Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Education Coalition, assembled by the Florida State University College of Medicine, to discuss students who are at risk for adult obesity.

Allison Wiman, a former Leon County nurse believes the current weight of many children is a concern, after analyzing the height and weight data of kindergarten, first, third and sixth-graders.

“14.8 percent of first grade Leon County children are considered overweight by CDC standards,” Wiman said. “The percent obese, of first-graders here in our county is 12.8 percent. That is our at risk population of children here in Leon county,” said Wiman.

Wiman then added, “Obese children are very likely, 70 percent likely, to become obese adults.”

According to Wiman, Roberts Elementary School had the lowest percentage of obese and overweight first-graders, while 41 percent of Apalachee Elementary students were considered overweight or obese. A whopping 50 percent of Leon county middle-schoolers were considered overweight.

Doctorate of Philosophy and Physical Education instructor, Jim Rauschenbach informed the local board members and parents of the initiative of the program.

“The primary goal of the program is prevention of childhood obesity and to ensure that children in kindergarten are at a healthy weight.”

Capital Pediatrics Dr.Jayati Singh, believes childhood obesity is a national issue that must be tackled by everyone.

“This is something not one of us can solve, this is something that we all need to work together to solve,” said Singh.

“About a third of children in the United States are either overweight or obese,” Singh added.

Obese children are at a higher risk from suffering from many serious illnesses such as type two diabetes, heart disease, self-esteem and anxiety issues. Furthermore, many perform poorly in school. Some students are unable to play outside because they live in troubled neighborhoods, according to Dr. Singh.

Executive Director of Whole Child Leon, Courtney Atkins, mentioned preventative measures to eradicate the rate of childhood obesity, such as; removing candy as a reward for exemplary student behavior, promoting healthy school fundraisers, while striving for 150 minutes of mandated activity, and not withhold recess as a form of punishment, would be a start to a healthier lifestyle for children.

Board members were in favor of mandating 20 minutes of recess, upon reviewing the data presented by the coalition. The board also agreed to pursue the other suggested  measures in the immediate future.