The health of Oregon’s children, and the public health of the entire state, is significantly threatened by high rates of obesity among children and youth, according to Children First for Oregon’s County Data Book 2005 released today.
“Because of the child obesity epidemic, this generation will be the first to be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” said Robin Christian, Children First for Oregon’s Executive Director. “We must act now to reverse this alarming trend.”
Currently, nearly 1 in 4 Oregon high school students are seriously overweight or at-risk for obesity. Obesity places children at high risk for developing serious and often life-long diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma, as well as mental health and emotional problems.
Children First’s report focuses on how schools have an important role in fighting this epidemic. Outside of the home, children spend the majority of their time in school, so it is vitally important that schools provide a healthy environment for students. Promising obesity prevention practices are highlighted from H.B. Lee Middle School (Portland), Elgin School District (Elgin) and Blossom Gulch Elementary School (Coos Bay).
“Research has shown that school programs can effectively promote physical activity and healthy eating, which in turn also helps students learn better,” said Angela Hult of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, the presenting sponsor of the report. “When children embrace healthy habits, it creates the foundation for a healthy life.”
Recommendations to reduce and prevent child obesity from the 2005 Data Book include:
· Establish state nutritional standards for all food and drink served or sold in schools.
· Prohibit junk food sales and marketing on school property.
· Ensure high quality physical education and health education as core curricula in all grades.
· Increase opportunities for physical activity after school and in the community.
· Sustain these efforts by coordinating the health related programs often found in schools and partnering with families and communities to offer students extended health-promoting opportunities (called a “coordinated school health” approach).
This year’s Data Book also continues Children First’s commitment to providing the most current data on the well-being of Oregon’s children and their families:
· About one in four 8th grade students is overweight or at risk of becoming overweight (24.5 percent).
· 62% of 11th grade students do not have any physical education in a typical week at school.
· 12% of children in the state do not have health insurance on any given day.
· 48% of 8th grade students did not have a medical or physical exam in the previous year.
· 30% of 8th grade students did not have a dental cleaning or exam in the previous year.
· 17% of 8th grade students are at high-risk for depression and 14% report having seriously considered suicide.
Family Finances and Stability
· Nearly 170,000 (19.1%) children live in extreme poverty, a 9% increase since last year.
· The average income of the top 1% of households is over 16 times greater than the average income of middle-income households.
· The number of people filing for bankruptcy has increased 35% since 2000.
· There are only 17 child care slots available for every 100 children ages 0-13, a 6% decrease since last year. The state’s benchmark target for 2005 was 25 slots per 100 children.
Child Abuse and Neglect
· 10,622 children are victims of child abuse, neglect or found to be at substantial risk of harm (12.0 per 1,000 children, an 11% increase since the previous year).
· 14,485 children have been in foster care at least once during the past year (a nearly 8% increase over last year).
· On average, 14% of children in Oregon’s foster care system experience four or more changes in foster placements. Some counties have placement instability rates of 30% and higher.
The 2005 County Data Book, part of the KIDS COUNT project, is made possible by a generous grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, the state’s largest health care insurer, is the presenting sponsor of the Data Book.
Children First for Oregon is dedicated to improving the lives of Oregon’s children by shaping statewide public policy. A non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization, Children First works to ensure that every child grows up in a healthy, safe and financially secure family. We engage citizens, lead strategic alliances, and advocate for data-driven polices and smart public investments. Visit our website at www.childrenfirstfororegon.org.