Community Report Card on Childhood Obesity Shows Growing Problem, Relationship to Income Level in Erie County

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Buffalo, N.Y., November 5, 2015 – Childhood obesity rates continue to climb in Erie County, particularly in less affluent areas, according to a Community Report Card on Childhood Obesity released today by the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County as part of the organization’s Annual Report to the Community. The Report Card is the first in a series of updates on our community’s health intended to outline the current status of key issues and potential solutions to improve health and well-being. The Report Card was released at an event today at the Buffalo Marriott HarborCenter that featured Dr.Gale R. Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health.

According to the Report Card, the incidence of childhood obesity in Erie County has risen to 32 percent, from 28 percent in 2008. Thirteen of the 29 school districts in Erie County had above average rates of obese and overweight students with those in the City of Buffalo, inner ring suburbs, and rural communities demonstrating higher rates of childhood obesity compared to suburban communities. The prevalence of unhealthy food, increased screen/media time and lower neighborhood income were cited as factors that can lead to higher incidence of obesity.

According to Dr. Burstein, “This should be a wakeup call for Erie County. Without intervention, the next generation will face serious health issues including diabetes, asthma, stroke, and heart disease, and may be the first generation to have shorter life spans than their parents. Battling the onset of obesity will not only save lives, but could collectively save hundreds of millions of dollars a year for New York State and individual families.”  New York State is currently the second highest in the nation for obesity-related spending.

Michael Weiner, President and CEO of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County added, “We have seen some success with programs like Soccer for Success, Play60 and CATCH (Coordinated Approach to, which provide opportunities for physical activity and encourage healthy eating, however, so much more is needed. Our entire community, including policy makers, school districts and individual families must work together to reverse this trend.”

The recommendations offered to address the childhood obesity issue include a call for funders and policymakers to continue to support school-based and afterschool programs that provide access to physical activity; for school districts to collect data to help policymakers understand which programs are most effective, as well as to offer high quality school lunches and access to physical education; and for families to encourage healthy food choices, reduced screen time and more physical activity.  Individuals who may want to get involved with organizations that address this issue are invited to visit www.volunteerwny.com for volunteer opportunities.

The quarterly “Report Cards” are intended to provide a snapshot of the status of issues faced by our community in the areas of Health, Financial Stability and Education, to better inform community and business leaders about the issue, what measures are being taken to address them and how others can become involved to help make positive change.

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