A recent report released by the Ohio Department of Health found one third of Ohio third graders are overweight or obese. The report, based on data collected in schools from 2004 to 2010, shows Ohio falls far behind the Health People 2010 objective of reducing the population of overweight or obese children and adolescents to five percent.
The report also found a variety of health disparities between different communities in Ohio. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children were found to be significantly more overweight or obese than non-Hispanic white children, and low-income children were significantly more likely to be obese compared to other children. The prevalence of obesity also varied significantly between geographic areas. Children in Appalachian countries had higher prevalence of being overweight or obese than children in other areas, and in some counties, more than 50 percent of children were overweight or obese.
The report describes links between a variety of lifestyle factors and weight in children. Children who drank more than one sugar-sweetened beverage a day were more likely to be overweight or obese than children who had one or fewer sugar-sweetened beverage a day. Children who watched 3 or more hours of TV a day were also more likely to be overweight or obese compared to children who watched less than 3 hours of TV a day.
The report makes several policy recommendations for reducing the level of overweight and obese children, including increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, providing safe areas for children to be active and play, reducing screen time and reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
A variety of Schubert Center faculty associates conduct research and other programs that aim to reduce the prevalence of obesity in children. Dr. Marilyn Lotas at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing developed a partnership with Cleveland Metropolitan School District to screen 4th and 7th grade children for hypertension and obesity. This program found 42.8% of children in Cleveland schools were overweight and obese, and 15.7% of children were hypertensive. Children who were overweight and obese were more likely to be hypertensive or pre-hypertensive than those in other weight categories.
Dr. Elaine Borawski and Dr. Leona Cuttler are both involved with Case’s Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN). The PRCHN has several programs aimed at improving access to healthy foods, teaching youth about nutrition and promoting physical activity to reduce childhood obesity. Their FreshLink project aims to increase access to healthy foods in urban areas and educate residents about nutrition and the benefits of healthy foods through programs with local schools, food retail establishments, community gardens, and community centers. The PRCHN recently received a $12.5 million grant to begin a seven-year project following 450 overweight and obese Cleveland Metropolitan School District students and examining the effectiveness of three different approaches to reduce childhood obesity and high blood pressure.