There are significantly fewer overweight or obese children in Palo Alto than in almost all other Santa Clara County cities, according to a study released Monday by scientists from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and California Center for Public Health Advocacy.
The study, “Overweight and Obesity among Children by California Cities – 2010,” offers a first-ever look at childhood obesity by city, according to the report’s authors.
Data from more than 250 cities were analyzed to produce results that paint a major discrepancy in childhood obesity based on geographic location.
In Palo Alto, 18.4 percent of children are overweight or obese, according to the report, compared to 32.9 percent in Santa Clara County as a whole and 38 percent statewide.
Gilroy had the highest percentage of overweight or obese children in the county, with 43.6 percent.
Statewide, Manhattan Beach marked the lowest percentage, at 11, and Huntington Park came in nearly five times that, and 53 percent.
The ambitious study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, and was based on a survey of geographical variation in overweight and obesity among 5th, 7th and 9th grade kids from California schools using data from the California Department of Education’s 2010 Physical Fitness Tests (PFT).
Overweight and obesity rates among children were reported for incorporated cities with populations of at least 20,000 and with PFT reporting of at least 70 percent.
“The epidemic of childhood obesity will not be solved by calling for individual behavior change alone,” according to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy website. “To address this health crisis, state and local leaders must address the conditions in schools and communities that contribute to the epidemic and undermine parents’ efforts to protect their children’s health.”
A list of policy recommendations by the study’s authors is available here, and includes maintaining the requirement for physical fitness testing, eliminating unhealthy food and beverages from schools, and providing incentives for grocery stores with quality food to set up shop in low-income neighborhoods.