Grove ... taking a hard look at childhood obesity.
Grove ... taking a hard look at childhood obesity.

A statewide study on childhood obesity has produced dozens of possible solutions to the problem and a bit of good news for York County.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, and the Joint State Government Commission unveiled the report late last month.

It includes 39 recommendations from health experts across the state that served on the Advisory Committee on Childhood Obesity, which Grove helped form. The recommendations are age-specific and focus on proper nutrition, physical activity, education and awareness.

"I don't think any of these are short-term, magic-bullet fixes," Grove said.

The report might be the first of its kind, he said.

"I've never seen a report like this," Grove said.

Stats: In the report, a county-by-county breakdown of the state's K-12 students in the 2010-11 academic year showed that 291,244, or 16.14 percent, were overweight and that 308,900, or 17.12 percent, were obese.

York County's numbers are a bit lower: Countywide, 10,456 students (15.16 percent) were overweight; 10,710 (15.53 percent) were obese.

"I think that's a good thing," Grove said of the county's better-than-average ranking. "Can we do better? Absolutely."

He said the state's initial focus should be on the counties with percentages greater than 20 percent in those categories.


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Chronic health problems are associated with having higher body fat. The report notes that a high BMI — the weight-to-height measure used in the statistics — doesn't necessarily indicate overweight or obese individuals because it doesn't distinguish among fat, muscle and bone.

Recommendations: To combat high body fat, children must receive proper nutrition and exercise, said advisory committee member Vonda Cooke, division chief of the state Department of Education's Division of Food and Nutrition.

"If we want kids to make healthy choices, kids need to have that access to healthy food," she said.

The committee recommends farm-to-school food programs, the state restore funding to breastfeeding programs, every K-12 student in the state be taught physical education throughout the year by a qualified instructor, and students participate in school meal programs.

To combat childhood obesity, it takes everyone — from ob-gyns to pediatricians to schools and colleges — to encourage good eating and educate kids about health, Cooke said.

"There's not one way to tackle the issue ... so we're thinking about many segments of the population and many different careers that can have an impact," she said.

Making strides: And Cooke said she's already seeing an impact.

More robust federal food programs have made a "tremendous change" in schools over the last couple years, she said.

"The new requirements are definitely moving schools in the direction of providing healthier foods," Cooke said.

In turn, elementary school students are being exposed to whole grains, fruits and vegetables, whereas older students might not be used to seeing those foods as much, she said.

When kids learn about and eat these healthier foods, they begin to request them from the grocery store and expose their families to them, too, Cooke said.

"I really think we are seeing a change in culture ... I think that there is definitely a shift occurring," she said.

View the full childhood obesity report at www.RepGrove.com.

— Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.