One in four schoolchildren in Chicago are obese, and a disproportionately high number of Hispanic and black students have weight problems, according to the city’s first city-wide childhood health survey.
“The key finding is that almost all of the stratifications — of boys and girls, the grade level — the Latino stats of obesity are at higher rates,” said Eric Jones, the city’s health-department researcher who conducted the study.
The lowest rates, he said, are in the white and Asian communities
The study tracked responses from 88,527 students in kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade. It used the body mass index (BMI), a formula that includes weight and height, to determine the frequency of obesity.
Overall, 44 percent of Hispanics and 42 percent of black students during the 2010-2011 school year were considered obese. In contrast, nine percent of white students and three percent of Asian students were obese.
Jones noted that obesity rates are also related to income.
“As a general rule, as income increases, obesity decreases,” he said. “Income, as well as race and ethnicity, plays a role.”
To combat these statistics, Dr. Stephanie Whyte, chief health officer for Chicago Public Schools, suggests creating community-level programs. Funded through grants, these programs would focus on preventive care, Whyte said — nutrition-education programming, increased water consumption, and strengthening physical education classes.
“Kids walk into the school every morning and they’re getting their red junk juice, which is full of no actual juice, but has plenty of high fructose corn syrup,” Whyte said. “We want to make other options more available.”