New Jersey Youth - Reducing the Problem of Overweight
The problem of overweight children and adolescents has been addressed over the past few years, through initiatives by staff in a number of programs throughout the Department of Health and the Division of Family Health Services (FHS), including Child and Adolescent Health, Perinatal Health, Family Planning and Senior Services. In June 2002, DOH spearheaded the Childhood Obesity Roundtable - a statewide planning meeting that was convened in cooperation with Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey and the New Jersey Obesity Group. Approximately 50 stakeholders participated in developing recommendations for impacting obesity trends in New Jersey given existing programs and resources.
Roundtable recommendations/next steps were shared with the recently legislated New Jersey Obesity Prevention Task Force (A3534, PL 2003, Chapter 303). The Task Force is a 27 member-appointed group charged with the responsibility to study, evaluate and develop recommendations and specific actionable measures to support and enhance obesity prevention among New Jersey residents, particularly children and adolescents. These recommendations shall comprise the basis for a New Jersey Obesity Action Plan to be presented to the Governor within 18 months of the initial meeting. The Task Force had its first meeting in December 2004. Additional information on the New Jersey “Roundtable” can be found in: “Who Cares? Why Care? So What!” and “ New Jersey Childhood Obesity Roundtable Recommendations” at the end of this section.
Nationally, 15% of children and adolescents are overweight. The cost of obesity-related health problems in New Jersey has been estimated to be about $2.3 billion. At the present time, the only data that is available on New Jersey youth is self-reported data of 9 th to 12 th grade public school students. In May 2003, the Department of Health announced its commitment to conduct a retrospective review of student health records to collect height and weight data on school aged children. This pilot was completed in collaboration with the Department of Education and the results were announced during a Governor’s press conference in September 2004. A sampling of 2,393 6 th grade school health records from 40 randomly selected public schools, of varying socioeconomic strata, were collected and analyzed. The data analysis on the weight status recorded in these school records indicate that 38% of students were at risk for overweight (18%) or overweight (20%). This exceeds the national figure.
There are national objectives (Healthy People 2010) for youth in the area of physical activity, overweight and obesity, fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, and calcium. Organizations and individuals should refer to these when developing their program objectives.
Tweens, youth between the ages of 9 to13, are the target audience that can be most readily influenced to modify nutrition and physical activity behaviors. Here are some resources that may help in planning youth activities and interventions:
- Promoting Better Health for Young People Through Physical Activity and Sports - A Report to the President from The Secretary of Health and Human Services 2000
- The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity 2001
- Fit, Healthy and Ready to Learn – A School Health Policy Guide 2002. National Association of State Boards of Education
- School Health Index for Physical Activity, Healthy Eating and a Tobacco - Free Lifestyle - A Self-Assessment and Planning Guide: Elementary School; Middle School/High School (2004)
New Jersey Publications:
- KidStrong (Inside & Out) - curriculum for grades 5 & 6
- Jump Start Your Bones – follow on curriculum for grades 7 & 8
- Oral Health and Nutrition Resource Guide
- New Jersey Council on Physical Fitness and Sports video
produced by New Jersey Network (NJN) through a Center for Disease Control (CDC) grant for physical activity to NJ Department of Education (DOE)
Web sites related to nutrition and physical activity:
www.shapingamericasyouth.com (A national initiative of the US Surgeon
General, Nike, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Diabetes Association, American Obesity Association and McNeil Nutritionals).
www.fitness.gov (The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
www.ed.gov/programs/whitephysed/awards.html (Physical Education for Progress)
www.fns.usda.gov/tn (Team Nutrition)
www.njsfsa.org (NJ School Food Service Association, 973-301-0777)
www.eatrightnj.org (NJ Dietetic Association, 908-276-0909)
Web sites for youth ages 9 -13 (tweens):
New Jersey initiatives:
Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids: www.state.nj.us/agriculture/news/p30520a.htm