Childhood Obesity in Our Hometown – What the Stats Say
By Terry Bailey
On Monday, we examined the national statistics regarding school children and discovered that across the U.S. 30.6% of the kids are overweight. We also saw that 15% of the children were classified as obese as measured by their Body Mass Index.
On Wednesday, we found that Kansas children’s’ statistics almost mirror those of the national ones. 30% of Kansas school kids are classified as overweight with 14.7% scoring in the obese range.
How do kids in Beloit compare to the national and state statistics? You would think here in North Central Kansas where everyone is involved in sports, participates in active time out-of-doors, and where everyone eats healthy meals, the numbers would be more positive.
Under the direction of School Nurse, Tami Roberts, BMI testing has been conducted for several years to collect meaningful data for public school children in Beloit. Here are the results from the 2012-2013 testing:
Beloit Elementary School 214 boys 223 girls 437 total
Underweight 2% 0 1%
Normal 64% 63% 64%
Overweight 35% 35% 35%
Obese 21% 17% 19%
Beloit Jr. Sr. High School 162 boys 175 girls 337 total
Underweight 2% 0 1%
Normal 60% 65% 62%
Overweight 38% 35% 37%
Obese 20% 21% 20%
St. John’s School 73 boys 63 girls 136 total
Underweight 3% 2% 2%
Normal 75% 79% 77%
Overweight 23% 19% 21%
Obese 11% 3% 7%
For all grade levels in the public schools, both boys and girls in Beloit scored 5 to 7 percentage points higher than the national and state averages on overweight school children. The Beloit Catholic school children reported a lower level of overweight children with the St. John’s kids averaging a score of 9 percentage points lower than the national and state averages and 15 points lower than the public school kids in Beloit. As with their counterparts across Kansas and the United States, Beloit youth tend to have an inactive lifestyle along with a less than satisfactory diet consuming more calories than they are expending, resulting in weight gain.
These numbers proved to be alarming to the local North Central Kansas AWARE organization. This active team of concerned citizens was organized in 2011 to become better educated with the effects of chronic disease in our community. Current members of AWARE NCK include: Janelle Gasper, Mandy Fincham, Cortney Murrow, Amber Martin, Lori May, Cheryl and Greg Renter, Tami Roberts, Shelby Bohnert, and Stephanie Simmons. Simmons has served as the lead facilitator and has provided strong leadership for this group since shortly after its inception. Their efforts have led to several local projects aimed at improving the health of the members of our community. These include but are not limited to: The Sunflower Walking Trail at the North Campus, grants received for the Safe Routes to School sidewalk building program, the Community Garden operation, Bike/Walk to School events, and other health related activities
The AWARE NCK group in undertaking perhaps their most aggressive project thus far in their existence. Beginning, Tuesday, September 8, the group will sponsor a “Run a Marathon” project at both Beloit and St. John’s Elementary schools. The anticipated outcome is for widespread participation of the kids at both schools as they learn how to set goals, work toward achieving them, and to gain personal satisfaction by reaching their goals.
The marathon has a history that began in the year 490 B.C. when the army of Athens defeated the Persian army on the plains of Marathon. The Athenian general sent his personal runner, Phidippedes (fa-dip-uh-dees), on a 26 mile run to announce the victory to the people of Athens.
Phidippedes completed the 26 mile run in three hours. The local marathon is scheduled to take place over a six week time period. Stephanie Simmons, executive director of the Mitchell County Regional Medical Foundation stressed, “This is not a race nor is it a competition. It is an opportunity for kids to set a goal of running a certain distance then to work hard to reach that goal. Everyone succeeds and everyone is a winner when they reach their goal”.
The first step is for the kids to take home and return permission slips signed by their parents. The running, walking, jogging of the 26 mile distance will take place each morning before school from 7:30 to 7:45 on the mornings designated for the activity. Scheduled dates for the before school exercise will be available since the kids will not run every morning.
At St. John’s the kids will run/jog/walk around the track that encircles the football field. With each lap equaling one-fourth of a mile, the students will need to run 104 laps for the 26 mile distance. Jama Budke is the race coordinator for the St. John’s school. She, along with volunteer helpers, will supervise the activity and help keep track of the miles earned by the students.
The running course for the Beloit Elementary School needed some tweaking so that a viable course could be used. Using the school track was not possible due to early morning traffic by both busses and cars. To create a pathway that was safe and manageable, two new sidewalks were recently built south of the Elementary School building. Catlin’s IGA, was one of the major corporate sponsors of the sidewalk project and took a strong organizational role to get the sidewalks built in a timely fashion. Simmons commented, “Catlin’s is a huge corporate sponsor of AWARE NCK and health initiatives in our community in general. Todd Catlin, Todd Adolph and their entire staff provided support not only School Marathon but for the health and wellness initiatives also. As well as the various contributions from Catlin’s, we could have not completed the project without the resources afforded by the Beloit Rotary, Beloit Lion’s Club and AWARE NCK. It was truly a community-wide effort.”
Additional sponsors of AWARE NCK include Mitchell County Hospital Health Systems, NCK Wellness Center and Mitchell County Health Department. The school districts of our community have also always been extremely supportive of health and wellness.
At Beloit Elementary it takes 65 laps to equal 26 miles. These sidewalks allow safe participation in an area where the kids can be observed. Liz Fixsen had accepted the daunting task of keeping the runners and records organized. She will be assisted also by volunteers.
Short term rewards will be given at each five mile segment. Every student will receive a five-mile marker and chain when they reach the five mile mark. At ten miles they receive a ten mile marker. When a student accumulates 15 miles, they are given a 15 mile marker and a Frisbee. Reaching 20 miles earns a 20 mile marker and a water bottle. Upon completion of the entire 26.2 mile marathon distance, each participant will receive a 26.2 mile marker, a T-Shirt, and a medal.
Simmons said “Theme Days” are planned to add a little variety and to gain support. “We have special days planned such as Law Enforcement Day when local police and sheriff department officers will be on hand for the morning activity. Also in the works is Fire Fighter Day, favorite college team day, visits by the local boys and girls athletic teams and so forth. The kids will enjoy having visitors and the visitors might learn a little bit about the program.
The “Run a Marathon” program has several anticipated positive outcomes. One obvious benefit would be that fifteen minutes of exercise each morning before school would be an opportunity for kids to burn off a few calories that they otherwise might not burn. An increased state of physical fitness would also be a benefit of walking/jogging/running 26 miles. Goal setting and then working to achieve that goal would be a successful outcome. Being a member of a school-wide positive activity would certainly be an expected result.
When asked how many students she hoped would choose to take part in the Marathon, Simmons replied, “We hope everybody takes part but we realize that may not happen. We are excited because kids do not have to pay a fee, they don’t need any special equipment or special shoes, they do not have to go anywhere except to school where there are going anyway, and they will be participating in a positive activity with their peers in a well-supervised location. For those who do participate, they will end up a little healthier than when they began. You just can’t beat a deal like that!”
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