The good news is that a little over half of NYC public school students are maintaining a healthy weight. The bad news? According to a new report from New York City’s Health Department and Department of Education (DOE), 21% of kindergarten through eighth grade students are obese, and an additional 18% of the City’s students are overweight. And, for the pickle: physically fit students outscore their peers who are less-fit on academic tests.
During the 2007-2008 school year, students who scored in the top 5% on their NYC FITNESSGRAM assessments outscored the bottom 5% by an average of 36 percentile points on standardized academic tests.
That childhood obesity is an epidemic in NYC should come as no surprise — Americans have steadily been getting fatter since the 1970s. Fitness has been proven to promote a longer, healthier life, and childhood obesity is an indicator for many serious diseases. But will this strong association between fitness and academic success provoke any changes in schools?
The DOE says there is an “urgent need to ensure that school-age children receive nutritious meals, high-quality physical education, and ample opportunities for physical activity.” Just this July, a panel composed by the Institute of Medicine released a list of 100 topics that it said should get high priority by the Obama administration, and included the need to look at the effectiveness of school programs to reduce childhood obesity through means like bans on vending machines. Parents continue to advocate for healthier school food and an increase in physical fitness programs. For our students’ health AND academic achievement, here’s hoping we can do it.
Panel Suggests Medical Priorities [NY Times 7/1/09]
A Manhattan Mother’s Battle Against Junk Food [NY Times 6/15/09]
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