Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Key to Fighting Childhood Obesity: Data

Dr. Pont
“The state of Texas is suffering from an obesity epidemic. Obesity and its related disorders cost the Texas economy a projected $9 billion in 2009. If unchecked, this cost is anticipated to grow to more than $32 billion by 2030. That is $32 billion we could use elsewhere in the state budget, such as in our education system. It is $32 billion we cannot afford to squander.” That's the message Stephen Pont, MD, an Austin pediatrician, delivered to members of the Sunset Advisory Commission yesterday.

“We must do everything in our power to stop the childhood obesity epidemic in Texas, and eliminating the FitnessGram is a step in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Pont, who spoke on behalf of the Texas Medical Association, Texas Pediatric Society, and Texas Academy of Family Physicians. Sunset staff recommended eliminating the Physical Fitness Assessment Report as an unnecessary reporting requirement. The recommendation is part of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Staff Report to the sunset commission as part of TEA's regular sunset review.

The FitnessGram is a physical education assessment and reporting program required under current law for children in grades 3 through 12 who participate in physical education classes. The exam measures a child’s aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. In 2011, Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) passed legislation that gave TEA the authority to correlate FitnessGram results with student academic achievement. TEA captures the data in a non-identifiable, individual format but has never completed the analysis as required by statute.

In response to a question from Sunset Advisory Commission member, Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) about the current use and status of FitnessGram reporting,  Dr. Pont said the data collected through FitnessGram assessments are key to identifying where to place scarce resources to fight the obesity epidemic. For example, this information can help a school district learn where most of its overweight and obese students reside. Such data were essential in helping the Austin Independent School District apply for private grants to fight obesity and to reach parents and families so they can play an informed role in their children’s health.

“Texas physicians see the unfortunate health effects of childhood obesity every day, including 9- and 11-year-olds with newly diagnosed type II diabetes and 8-year-olds with high blood pressure — resulting from their obesity. Ultimately, it is more expensive to treat an obese adult than provide primary prevention for children,” explained Dr. Pont.  A 2003 study in the Obesity research journal concluded $14 a year invested in student nutrition and physical activity programs can save more than $15,000 in medical costs and over $25,000 in loss-of-productivity costs associated with adult obesity. There is no better time than now to make decisions that will improve both the academic future of our students and the physical and fiscal health of our state.

3 comments :

  1. If we really want to help fight obesity among children, we really need to put a lot of effort in changing the lunch and breakfast menu in school. It's out of control! Chick-fil-A for lunch, pizza, fries, ice cream almost everyday, sugary cereals for breakfast, etc... It's really a shame. That's the menu in hill country middle school (eanes). This menu condition kids to poor eating habits. And even we try to teach them good habits at home, it becomes a struggle when they are eating 2/3 of their meals at school.

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  2. That's a great point. There are new USDA guidelines that substantially improve the healthfulness of food served at schools. You might want to inquire as to how Eanes ISD is incorporating these changes. Austin ISD has made some great improvements over the last number of years regarding vending machines and its school lunch. Eanes ISD also should have a school health advisory council which is another way to find out what the status is regarding the USDA and other healthy changes. Austin ISD's SHAC meets the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm, usually in the AISD boadroom, but sometimes in Austin High's cafeteria. It's an open meeting, so feel free to join us if you'd like to see some of the great things that AISD is doing.

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  3. Well yeah of course obesity is a world wide problem, that's why Britain makes shows like this to try and stop Europe getting worse and ending up like the US, and its working. We have done many things to tackle obesity over the last 10yrs, these shows are one of many. The US is also where obesity is at its most extreme (The US takes everything to the extreme) no other country has giant coffins for 11yrs old or people so obese limbs snap off.Show people that extreme an it shocks them in to change.
    thanks~Barbara

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