Chula Vista Schools Fight Obesity

Chula Vista Schools Fight Obesity

Ready, Set, Go! One, two, three. The kids at Chula Vista’s Kellogg Elementary
School are just getting warmed up for all the activities at their year-end fitness fair. Look at your event pass, there are wonderful
activities that you will participate in like the basketball shoot, the football throw,
hurdles, hula hoop, the jump rope. Students and parents agree the Fair is a fun
alternative to watching movies in class as the school year winds to a close. It’s really good that we get to get out
and exercise instead of being cooped up in the classroom. We have all these games and they’re so absorbed
on TV, now they’re actually playing outside, so that’s awesome. This is a great opportunity for them to be
enjoying the beautiful weather we have in San Diego. Having fun is one goal of the afternoon. But
the fair is part of a year-long effort to make students healthier. Bend down and touch your toes. Chula Vista Elementary school District did
a district-wide height and weight surveillance in the fall and what we saw, there was a need
to improve the physical fitness of our students and that that is tied to greater achievement
and learning and feeling good about being at school – so this is important to us. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention estimate about seventeen percent of kids between the ages of two and nineteen
are obese. But Chula Vista’s height and weight survey
found things are even worse in their schools. Nearly half of first grade girls and more
than a third of first grade boys were overweight. By the sixth grade more than half of all students
were overweight and a quarter were considered obese. Across California students’ weight and height
are only recorded in the fifth grade. After its survey, Chula Vista is now the only district
in the state to have this detailed a picture of nearly all students, from preschool to
sixth grade. The survey was Sharon Hillidge’s idea. We’ve been operating with assumptions and
very limited information. So, having this wealth of data really allows us to do a better
job of knowing what we need to do. The schools with the highest rates of obesity
are located in what have come to be known as food deserts. There are fast food restaurants
nearby, but few grocery stores. There are fewer parks. And the neighborhoods tend to
have more violent crime. All of these factors stand in the way of making healthy lifestyle
choices. That’s why the district’s superintendent is intent on working with student’s families. We need to be very focused in our approach
to ensure that we’re actually changing lifestyles and the focuses has to be in those specific
critical areas where we have higher incidence of obesity. The district is already making plans. They’ll
overhaul food programs, bring in more local produce, and give students healthier options.
They’re looking to hire physical education teachers for some schools and they want to
start after-school farmers markets. Escobedo says these efforts are critical. So it’s going to be very interesting, because
typically when you have systemic change, it takes five to ten years. And we’re trying
to accelerate that change because we’re talking about the lives of kids. We’re talking
about kids, who, when they’re 30 will have either diabetes or heart attacks. We cannot
wait, we have to do something now. If Chula Vista can accelerate these changes,
they hope their efforts – like Kellogg Elementary’s fitness fair – can serve as a model for school
districts across California and the country. Hillidge’s campaign to tell parents, teachers
and other staff about her findings has already started to trickle down to the students at
Kellogg. They know the fair is equal parts fun and serious. I know this for a fact: most kids is like
obese and they don’t go out and be active, so this really a good chance for all of us
to be active and play. Go, go, go. Good job.

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