September marks Childhood Obesity Awareness month, and according to a new report released today by the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative, more than one out of every three 5th, 7th, and 9th graders enrolled in public schools in San Diego County are overweight or obese.
There are many reasons high rates of overweight and obesity continue to put San Diego County’s children at risk. However, at the forefront are challenges families face such as a lack of access to affordable, healthy food choices or opportunities for physical activity by means of safe and accessible parks, neighborhoods, and places to exercise. Unfortunately, many students in San Diego County are more likely to be overweight or obese by virtue of where they live, what school they attend, their race or ethnicity, or their family’s income. For example, 42% of economically disadvantaged students struggle with overweight or obesity compared to 26% for those who are not disadvantaged. These disparate rates reflect the realities of socioeconomic environments, and highlight a major barrier for improved health in San Diego County. These disparities are further seen among racial and ethnic groups. For example, 43% of Hispanic or Latino students are overweight or obese compared to 24% of white students.
Reducing the prevalence of overweight and obese children, specifically in traditionally underserved communities, requires long-term, sustained resources, investments and partnerships across sectors to meet neighborhood, school, family, and individual children’s needs. Families who cannot afford their housing, are food insecure, and who live in neighborhoods that are unsafe or have limited access to affordable, healthy food, are all too often among those with children who are overweight or obese.
This data offers an opportunity for organizations to renew their commitment to finding solutions that will improve the health of all children and families across the county. While many of the challenges to the obesity epidemic are far-reaching, local organizations are working with the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative to address issues related to healthy food access and access to physical activity. For example, the YMCA of San Diego County are working to help raise awareness and support continued efforts to reduce and prevent childhood obesity throughout the month.
During September, the YMCA of San Diego County and other San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative partners are promoting the 5-2-1-0 Every Day! Campaign, which represents a set of simple suggestions children and families can take to improve health and prevent obesity. 5-2-1-0 Every Day! promotes the following nationally recognized and evidence-based strategies:
- 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables,
- 2 hours or less of recreational screen time,
- 1 hour or more of physical activity, and
- 0 sugary beverages
To address physical activity barriers, all YMCA branches in the county are free on September 14 for an open house. While visiting, individuals and families can learn more about 5-2-1-0 and ways to implement the strategies into their daily lives. Additionally, information will be available on financial assistance for YMCA memberships.