Do Health Policies Aimed at School Children Lower Childhood Obesity Rates?

    • March 14, 2013

Dates of Project: January 2011 to September 2012

Field of Work: Childhood obesity: school food and physical activity policies

Problem Synopsis: Is there an association between new legislative and school policies in California affecting the nutrition and physical activity environment and changes in the rates of childhood obesity in the state?

Synopsis of the Work: Obesity rates for California schoolchildren in fifth, seventh and ninth grades were obtained by analyzing the results of annual physical fitness tests required of students in those grades. These data were analyzed to determine what changes in obesity rates might have occurred between 2005 and 2010. Those results were compared to policies relating to diet and exercise that were implemented during that period by the state legislature, cities, and school districts. The goal was to determine if an association could be established between changes in policy and changes in obesity.

"While the prevalence of overweight and obesity declined in 26 of California's 58 counties, it increased in more than half of the counties during this time."

Key Findings

Two published reports presented these findings:

  • Some 38 percent of 5th, 7th, and 9th graders in California were overweight or obese in 2010.
  • The rate of obesity declined 1.1 percent from 2005 to 2010.
  • Rates of childhood obesity in California vary significantly between counties, cities, and racial and ethnic populations.

"California prohibited the sale of all soda and junk food on K–12 school campuses in the state, and many California cities and school districts adopted policies promoting access to healthier foods and expanding opportunities for physical activity."

Childhood obesity declined 1.1 percent over five years, but 38 percent of 5th, 7th, and 9th graders in California were still overweight or obese in 2010.