New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study: New Brunswick Physical Activity Environment

The New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study presents findings from Newark, utilizing information from the household survey, school-based body mass index (BMI) data, and food and physical activity environment data.

Key Findings:

  • School BMI: Newark children are more likely to be overweight or obese compared to their national counterparts. The rates are highest among the youngest (3–5 years) and the middle (6–11 years) age groups.
  • Food Behaviors: The majority of Newark children do not meet recommendations for vegetable consumption. They also frequently consume energy dense foods such as fast food, sugar sweetened beverages, and sweet and salty snacks. Non-Hispanic Black children tend to consume these energy dense foods most often.
  • Food Environment: Although most parents shop at supermarkets and superstores, they report limited availability of fresh produce and low-fat items at these stores. Half of the non-Hispanic black families do not shop in their neighborhood. Cost and quality are reported as major barriers to buying healthy foods.
  • Physical Activity Behaviors: Most children do not meet the guidelines for being physically active for 60 minutes each day. In addition, a large proportion spend more than two hours a day watching television, using the computer and playing video games. Almost half of children do not walk or bike to school and many do not use the sidewalks, parks and exercise facilities available in their neighborhoods. More than one-third do not live near exercise facilities and a fifth do not have parks nearby.
  • Physical Activity Environment: Although almost all neighborhoods have sidewalks and some have parks and exercise facilities, a large number of parents report that their children do not use these facilities to be active. Crime level, traffic, pleasantness of neighborhoods and parks, and condition of sidewalks are the most commonly reported barriers to such use. Effective interventions will require changes in the neighborhood environment by creating new opportunities, improving existing features, and addressing barriers associated with practicing healthy behaviors. Efforts are also needed to raise awareness about the issue of childhood obesity and associated behaviors among parents and caregivers.

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