Childhood Obesity

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

A $37 million program to reduce childhood obesity in Texas didn’t actually achieve any of its desired results, according to a new study from the University of Texas

The Texas Fitness Now program gave grants to the state’s poorest middle schools from 2007 to 2011, when the program ended due to budget cuts.

If you want to teach kids to adopt healthier eating habits, it's probably unwise to give them coupons for fast food chains at school.

And those advertisements for sugary sodas on the gymnasium scoreboard? Seems like another mixed message schools are sending kids.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States. More than three times as many children are obese today compared to a generation ago. 

In Central Texas, some of the highest childhood obesity rates can be found in the Southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. The area has attracted the attention of social scientists who are looking at everything from the built environment, to the number of parks, to the socio-economic demographics, to the availability of healthy food.

It’s that last item – access to fresh produce in particular – that is the focus of an effort by Austin’s Sustainable Food Center. The non-profit has partnered with other groups to set up a temporary produce stand at the Dove Springs Recreation Center for three hours on Wednesdays for part of the summer.

Rune Mathisen, Texas Tribune

Students should be getting 60 minutes a day of physical activity, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine. That exercise could happen before, during or after school.

The study also recommends the U.S. Department of Education declare physical education a core subject.

Bill Kohl, who led the committee that wrote the report, says physical activity improves learning in the classroom.

Juan Carlos/Flickr

Middle and elementary school students craving a Coke during the school day may be in trouble.

A bill that would ban the sale of sugary drinks in Texas middle and elementary schools is heading to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for final approval.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Latinos are Texas’ fastest-growing population group. And they are grappling with soaring obesity rates. According to the Department of State Health Services, almost 40 percent of Hispanics are obese. To combat the health crisis, cities as well as state lawmakers are aiming to get Latinos exercising and eating healthier.

The Texas State Demographer’s office expects that by 2030, nearly six million Latinos will be obese. That number could soar to almost nine and a half million by 2040. All that adds up to a looming health crisis, with potentially high costs for the state.

Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Austin Independent School District teachers may tell their students they’re special, but numbers never lie. And the numbers say that they’re (just a bit) above average.

Thankfully, that’s not a bad thing.

This interactive map from the office of Comptroller Susan Combs displays the body mass index rates of over 2 million students in public schools across Texas. The measurements are based on statistics from the Fitnessgram, a program which measures the fitness levels of Texas public school students from grades three to 12. And it's also the target of a bill in the state legislature that would end the program.

flickr.com/sourmash

Obesity continues to be a serious and worsening health problem in the U.S. and globally. And Texas is no exception to this trend.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that Texans rank among the 13 states in the nation which have the highest obesity rates.  Between 30 and 35 percent of Texans said they were obese as part of a national survey conducted by the CDC.

The data, collected in 2011, represents a new baseline because of the way cell phones users were included in the survey. The survey is known as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Karlton Hill was only 12 years old when when he found out he had diabetes. Even though he was only in seventh grade, Karlton knew what diabetes was; he had watched the disease destroy his great-grandmother's life.

"I was really upset. I cried," he says. "I didn't want any of this to happen to me. I was like, 'Why is this happening to me?' "

Public health experts have been worrying for years that the obesity epidemic would lead to an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes among kids.

The numbers are staggering: One-third of Americans are obese; another third are overweight. Some 26 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. An additional 79 million more are pre-diabetic. Thanks to these figures, the children of today have a good chance of becoming the first generation of Americans to die at younger ages than their parents.

Slowing the rising rates of obesity in this country by just 1 percent a year over the next two decades would slice the costs of health care by $85 billion.

Keep obesity rates where they are now — well below a 33 percent increase that's been expected by some — and the savings would hit nearly $550 billion over the same 20 years.

Photo by Foshydog http://www.flickr.com/photos/foshydog/

Texas is the 12th most obese state in the U.S., according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011. The report is from the non-profit research group Trust for America’s Health.

Texas has been slowly creeping up the list for the past two years, ranking 14th in 2009, and 13th in 2010. The obesity rate in Texas for adults is 30 percent.  Fifteen years ago that number was 16 percent. 

Childhood obesity is one of those extremely complicated issues that is affected by many interrelated factors like family income, where you live, and your level of education.  An annual study that looks at obesity rates across America says Texas has the 7th highest rate of childhood obesity in the country. 

As we've reported in the past, the southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the city.