New Mexico: Signs of Progress

State reports 11.9 percent decline in obesity among third-graders; largest drop among American-Indian youth.

    • February 5, 2015
New Mexico - Signs of Progress

A child enjoying the healthy benefits of locally grown carrots at Guadalupe Montessori School garden in Grant Co, New Mexico.

New Mexico created its statewide obesity-prevention efforts from the ground up, starting with one pilot site in Las Cruces. What leaders learned there informed the development of a comprehensive agenda that would be carried out across 40 programs based in eight state agencies.

As part of the state’s Healthy Kids New Mexico effort, schools have:

  • initiated classroom fruit and vegetable tastings, created salad bars or pre-made salads as lunch options, and offered fruits and vegetables as snacks; and
  • created walk- and bike-to-school programs, improved access to active schoolyard space, and begun student mileage clubs.

These efforts are paying off. Eighty-three percent of students in participating schools have increased healthy eating opportunities and 64 percent have increased physical activity opportunities before, during, and after school on an ongoing and regular basis.

Las Cruces made numerous changes in communities too:

  • passing a resolution that prioritized more active methods of transportation, such as walking and biking;
  • mapping restaurants, grocery stores and farmers’ markets in order to inform efforts to increase access to affordable healthy foods;
  • creating a program which enabled local farmers’ markets to accept benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and
  • offering cooking classes to participants of SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

The rest of the state is hard at work too:

  • Four tribal communities have built or improved 48 miles of multi-purpose trails in the last three years.
  • In the 2013-14 school year, more than 4,000 third graders participated in the 5.2.1.O challenge, encouraging them to eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day, trim screen time to two hours or less a day, get at least an hour of physical activity a day, and drink lots of H2O every day.
  • Santa Rosa, a town of fewer than 3,000 residents, launched a farmers market and gave lower-income residents $25 every week to spend on fresh produce at the market. These efforts are particularly important in rural and frontier communities like Santa Rosa because residents there tend to have more limited access to healthy foods.

The state is particularly encouraged by a 19.4 percent decline in obesity among American Indian third graders, the largest decline of any racial or ethnic group measured. But despite the downward trend, American Indian students continue to have the highest obesity prevalence rates.

There also has been progress in reducing obesity among New Mexico preschoolers enrolled in federal health and nutrition programs. A 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families dropped 5.8 percent, from 12 percent in 2008 to 11.3 percent in 2011.

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Declining Rates in New Mexico

Obesity Rates Drop Among Young Children

Nex Mexico is one of 18 states reporting a decline in obesity among preschool children from low-income families.

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decline in obesity among third-graders in New Mexico; largest drop among American-Indian youth.