Study shows childhood obesity rates continue to grow in Contra Costa
Local health officials say sugar-sweetened beverages are major contributor to epidemic
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Childhood obesity continues to be a growing problem in Contra Costa and the majority of counties in the state, a new study released today shows. The number of school-age children who are overweight or obese in Contra Costa rose by 3.5 percentage points to an alarming overall 33.85 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the statewide study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA).
Obesity poses a serious health risk to children and one of the biggest contributors to this epidemic are sugar-sweetened beverages, say local county health officials. To effectively slow the epidemic of obesity, the environment must be changed to help support families in making healthy choices, said Dr. Wendel Brunner, Public Health Director with Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS).
"Obesity is endangering our children's health and future, and we know that low-income children are even more at risk. Sugar-sweetened beverages are a significant part of the problem and are the number one source of calories in teenagers' diets," Brunner said.
In Contra Costa, low-income areas have the highest rates of obesity and also a higher percentage of unhealthy food outlets. Both San Pablo and Richmond have some of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the county. The San Pablo City Council has taken action by asking CCHS to prepare a report on the impact of soda and other sugary beverages on the health of its residents.
CCHS's report found that San Pablo residents are flooded with food vendors who sell sugary beverages with an estimated 78.5 percent of San Pablo's population living within 500 feet of a sugary beverage vendor. Additionally, there is an average of 9.55 sugary beverage outlets within a quarter mile of San Pablo Schools, said Tracey Rattray with CCHS' Community Wellness and Prevention Program, which is working on the report.
"The San Pablo survey results are astounding. You can buy a sugary beverage everywhere you turn. That isn't a healthy environment," Rattray said. "Not only are children getting bombarded with sugary beverages in their physical environment, the soda industry is aggressively marketing to kids on television as well."
A CCHS survey of 12 retail outlets within walking distance of Helms Middle School also found that sugary beverages are by far the most stocked types of drinks in stores with an average of 106 different types (flavors and brands) of sugary beverages on store shelves. The Richmond City Council also has requested a presentation by CCHS on the impact of sugary beverages on children's health.
In addition to reducing access and marketing to sugary beverages, there are other interventions that can help curb the rising rates of childhood obesity in Contra Costa. The CCHS NEW (Nutrition, Exercise, and Wellness) Kids Program in Pittsburg and Concord works with overweight children and their families to change the eating and exercise patterns of the whole family.
In addition, Kaiser-funded Health Eating Active Living collaboratives are working in Concord and Richmond to create healthier communities for families. Contra Costa cities also are working to make our streets safer so that kids can walk and bike to school, and schools are involved in everything from gardens to healthier lunches.
The UCLA and CCPHA study, A Patchwork of Progress: Changes in Overweight and Obesity Among California 5th, 7th and 9th Graders, 2005-2010, is available at: www.publichealthadvocacy.org
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