Obesity epidemic high in Latino, low-income students

Posted at 6:49 PM, May 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-30 21:49:50-04

A new report reveals many of the county’s students are still overweight or obese, mainly in disadvantaged communities. 

"Nearly in every corner of my street, there's a fast-food restaurant,” said Kearny High student Miguel Molina.

Molina Molina may not be overweight, but he's concerned for his friends and relatives who live in his neighborhood of Valencia Park. 

"The sidewalks have cracks on them and some streets don't even have sidewalks,” said Molina.

The obesity rate for Latino students was more than twice as high for Latino and low-income children. 

"As pediatricians, we often get frustrated because we're telling families and children to just eat better and move more and we're not seeing the changes,” said Dr. Natalie Muth.

In our county alone, only seven out of 42 school districts have strong physical activity and physical education in their school policy.

“It’s changed over the years because there's been a higher focus on test scores.  Not realizing that physical education is essential,” added Muth. 

Only 3 out of 42 school districts limit or ban flavored milk and sweet drinks.

"We got to get away from the sugary soft drinks.  That's public enemy number 1,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts.

There has been some progress.

The report found 33 out of 42 school districts have a farm to school gardens, including Chula Vista High School. 

The YMCA of San Diego County offers child care providers one-on-one coaching to help them teach kids early on about healthy eating and staying in shape. 

But more needs to be done to make neighborhoods safer.  Or to change the perception these neighborhood are dangerous.

"My parents would always tell me, don't play in the front yard,” said Molina. 

Everyone in the fight against childhood obesity agrees it's going to take government, schools and community champions to make the difference. 

The findings for this report came from studying fifth, seventh and ninth graders in public schools during the 2014-2015 school year.

View the entire the state of childhood obesity report here.