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Data finds childhood obesity on rise among local students

The results are in, but officials at the Knox County Health Department aren’t releasing the data just yet.

The latest figures from a height and weight study of area students were gathered in May, and will be released to the press later this summer.

An earlier health screening of 223 Knox County fourth- and fifth-graders who participated in an anonymous health screening showed some significant health problems.

“It’s not good,” said Laura Boring, supervisor of physical education and health K-8 for Knox County Schools System.

The study by the Cardiac Kids Project, sponsored by the Baptist Health System Foundation, found young students have a variety of problems usually associated with adults. A body mass index study, which is a height-weight comparison, found that 21 percent of the elementary-aged students are at risk for developing problems associated with obesity. The national average is 15 percent, she said. Twenty-one percent have elevated cholesterol; four percent have high glucose and three percent have elevated blood pressure, said Dena Mashburn, community health partnerships director for Baptist Health System Foundation.

The Knox County Health Department began recording the height and weight of local school children in 2003.

Information from 2003 shows that 38.5 percent of Knox County kids are overweight or at risk of being overweight, compared to the national average of 30 percent, said Stephanie Welch, director of the Healthy Weight program for KCHD.

New data from the 2006 study is due out soon. Michelle Moyers, an educator with the Knox County Health Department, said earier this year she hoped the data on a body mass index study of more than 7,000 Knox County students would be completed by the end of May.

Prior to 1992, Boring said, the state department of education mandated a specific number of physical education minutes for students, and she’s all for mandatory physical education time to return to Tennessee schools

When the Basic Education Program, or BEP, came in, that took away the mandated minutes and merely stated the curriculum be taught, she said.

Boring said that she would be thrilled with legislative proposals of either 90 or 150 minutes per week of activity.

“The ninety minute [legislation] has passed through the education committee,” she said.


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