SOURCE: California Center for Public Health Advocacy

August 24, 2005 19:50 ET

New Study Shows 6 Percent Jump in the Number of Overweight Children in California

SACRAMENTO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- August 24, 2005 -- While Californians may be better informed about the obesity crisis than ever before, a study released today shows the number of overweight children in California continues to rise. Based on their analysis of children's fitness statistics, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) reports that the state's prevalence of overweight children has increased 6.2 percent in three years.

"Though we may all know there's a problem, far too little has been done to address the childhood obesity epidemic. The crisis is getting worse," says Dr. Harold Goldstein, CCPHA executive director. "In nearly 90 percent of all state Assembly Districts, we saw the number of overweight children increase. Correcting this crisis must become a top priority for California lawmakers."

Using data from the 2004 California Physical Fitness Test, which is administered in California public schools to fifth, seventh and ninth graders, the study shows that childhood overweight rates have climbed to 28.1 per 100 students, up from 26.5 per 100 students in 2001. The study also reports that the prevalence of overweight increased for every ethnicity, age and gender group studied. More than a third of the state's Assembly Districts saw double-digit rates of growth.

To understand the extent of the crisis from a local perspective, The Growing Epidemic: Child Overweight Rates on the Rise in California Assembly Districts reports the information by state Assembly District. The Los Angeles region reported some of the most disturbing data, where eight out of the state's ten Assembly Districts with the highest percentage of overweight children were recorded.

"This study highlights the childhood obesity epidemic growing across California. More than one out of every four children in our state is overweight. This crisis poses serious health risks for our children and will negatively impact the future of California," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "All of us must respond boldly and decisively to address this problem and as Governor I am committed to educating and motivating our children to live an active, healthy lifestyle. I urge all Californians -- government leaders, parents, teachers, coaches, business owners and citizens -- to join me as we work together to address this serious problem."

The growing epidemic of overweight children is already taking its toll. Pediatricians today regularly treat children afflicted with type 2 diabetes, a disease once referred to as adult-onset diabetes and virtually unheard of among children a decade ago. Additionally, overweight children are more likely to be obese adults and suffer from expensive and preventable illnesses, and they may die prematurely. If policymakers ignore this trend, experts warn that state and local governments face a future marred by runaway healthcare costs, a jeopardized work force and an increasing burden on government finances.

Given the increasing prevalence of overweight children, the report suggests that it is not enough to tell children to eat better and get more exercise. "State and local leaders must enact polices to change conditions in schools and communities that undermine parents' efforts to protect their children," Goldstein said.

CCPHA is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded by the California Public Health Association-North and the Southern California Public Health Association. Support for the 2004 study was provided by a grant from the California Vitamin Cases Consumer Settlement Fund. The 2001 analysis was funded by a grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Copies of the study, policy brief and Assembly District fact sheets are available at the CCPHA Web site at: http://www.publichealthadvocacy.org.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The policy brief and press materials are available at: http://www.publichealthadvocacy.org/policy_briefs/overweight2004.html

Contact Information

  • CONTACT:
    Dr. Harold Goldstein
    CA Center for Public Health Advocacy
    (530) 297-6000

    Paula Hamilton
    Brown-Miller Communications
    (800) 710-9333