Policy Briefs and Website Show California Lawmakers Rates of Childhood Obesity and Diabetes in Their Districts

Using policy briefs to improve population health

In 2001, the California Center for Public Health Advocacy published policy briefs about childhood obesity and fitness levels and diabetes mortality rates throughout California, and developed accompanying fact sheets individualized for each of California's 80 assembly and 40 senate districts.

Project staff worked with a biostatistician to analyze data from the 2001 California Physical Fitness Test administered to students in grades 5, 7 and 9 and California death certificates from 1996 to 2000.

Staff also convened two scientific advisory panels (one on overweight and unfit children and another on diabetes deaths).

Key Findings:

  • High rates of overweight and physically unfit children exist in all California assembly and senate districts. Statewide, 26.5 percent of children are overweight and 39.6 percent are physically unfit.
  • Percentages of overweight children and diabetes-related deaths range widely among legislative districts, and those with higher diabetes-related death rates also tend to have a higher prevalence of overweight and physically unfit children.
  • African Americans, Latinos and American Indians/Alaskan Natives have the highest incidence of diabetes-related deaths.

Key Results:

  • Center staff publicized the briefs and fact sheets and distributed them to lawmakers.
  • Members of the state legislature, public health departments, government agencies and community organizations throughout the state found the breakdown of data by legislative district to be very useful, according to Samuels & Associates, which conducted an evaluation of the project.
  • The policy briefs on overweight (comparing 2001 findings to 2004 findings) and on diabetes, and a map of overweight students by assembly district are posted on the Center website.