Local schools make changes to address childhood obesity concerns

Increased awareness of the prevalence of childhood obesity has shocked health officials and educators into action, both on a state and local level.

“Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in New York,” said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, MD in a press release dated Sept. 3.

The statement cites a 2004 study of the state’s third-graders, which identified 21 percent of children at the third grade level as obese. It was in that year the New York State Health Department released its Strategic Plan for Overweight and Obesity Prevention. Local school districts are feeling the impact as changes occur on the state level to meet goals of the plan.

One objective is to “increase the proportion of schools that comply with NYS Department of Education physical education requirements.” How well do schools currently meet these requirements? You might want to sit down for this.

According to a survey conducted in January by the New York State United Teachers, just over 10 percent of the districts where their 585,000 members were employed met state regulations that require daily physical education classes for K-3 students. Close to 25 percent of those districts count recess toward physical education time, which is in direct conflict with state requirements.

Concerns have prompted the Office of the State Comptroller into action. They announced earlier this year that, with the support of the State Education Department, they will begin auditing school districts for compliance with state physical education requirements. This has spurred some local school districts to take a closer look at their curriculums and facilities. Change has already begun.

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