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Science, Health, Tech

Delaware's childhood obesity rate ranks in the top third

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New data puts Delaware’s childhood obesity rate in the upper third on a nationwide ranking.

16.7% of young people ages 10 to 17 in Delaware are obese. That gives the First State the 16th highest childhood obesity rate among all states, according to data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released this week.

Mississippi has the highest rate 26.1% and Utah the lowest at 8.7%.

Delaware’s rate dropped 0.1% from last year.

Laura Saperstein is the program administrator for Delaware’s Physical Activity Nutrition and Obesity Prevention (PANO) program.

“More investments are needed in the school setting and in the community-based setting to work with families and to prevent childhood obesity. The schools are really stretched thin,” said Saperstein.

Saperstein says for the most part childhood obesity rates have levelled off across the country over the past decade.

“A lot of what determines how healthy we are are really what we call our social determinants of health. So it’s the environment in which we live—we call it work play pray—so we go to school or we go to work. So does the environment support those habits?”

PANO works with the Department of Education to set school wellness policies that ensure kids get enough exercise and have healthy food options.

Legislation last year implemented a mandatory recess policy in Delaware for grades K through 8.  Saperstein says she’d also like to see high school add more opportunities for students to be active.

She notes the Department of Ed is making a large investment in a digital health assessment gym teachers use called fitnessgram.

If current trends continue, more than half of today’s children will be obese by age 35, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

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