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Posted: 1/20/2006 4:51:59 AM EDT
Is it the schools or the parents fault?

BMI for all students, yet the BMI is generally wrong depending on frame size, amount of muscles, etc.

hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/O/OVERWEIGHT_KIDS?SITE=PAPOT&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2006-01-19-19-10-54

Nearly 38 Percent of Ark. Kids Overweight

By ANDREW DeMILLO
Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Thirty-eight percent of Arkansas' public school children are overweight or at risk of being overweight, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said in a report issued Thursday.

The finding was the same as last year's when UAMS also studied the effects of a 2003 state law that called for mandatory and voluntary changes in the schools to address health issues among Arkansas' children.

Health officials said Thursday they hope to see obesity numbers decline as more schools offer healthier food choices.

"It takes a lot of behavior change to lower an individuals' weight," said Martha Phillips, assistant professor in the UAMS colleges of medicine and public health. "Multiply this by a population as large as this, and it takes even longer."


Act 1220 requires a body mass index screen for all public school students. A statewide Child Health Advisory Committee, established under the law, proposed regulations that were adopted last year by the state Board of Education.

Changes made at schools have included prohibiting the use of food as a reward, offering more fruits and vegetables on lunch menus, removing deep fryers and increasing the availability of low-fat and low-sugar beverages and snacks.

The number of schools offering low-fat milk in their vending machines increased from 15 percent in 2004 to 23 percent in 2005, the report said. Researchers also found that the number of schools prohibiting the use of food as a reward for students increased from 7 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2005.

Students also reported a decrease in the use of diet pills and a decrease in teasing from other students because of weight, the report found.


"This is good news all around," Phillips said.

Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has been focusing on health issues after losing more than 100 pounds, said the findings show progress in fighting childhood obesity, which he described as an "epidemic."

"The findings of this report show us that the state has slowed the rising trend of childhood obesity and that the components of Act 1220 need to continue in order to encourage children to live healthier lives," Huckabee said through his spokeswoman Thursday.

UAMS researchers surveyed teachers, administrators, students and their families to evaluate the effectiveness of Act 1220. They presented their findings Thursday to the state interim House and Senate Committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.

The new regulations, approved in August, prohibit student purchases from vending machines until 30 minutes after the last lunch period and limit the beverage size to 12 ounces. School districts do not have to comply with the beverage size limit or any other locally proposed changes if a vending contract was in place prior to Aug. 8, however.

Former House Speaker Herschel Cleveland, who addressed the panel Thursday, said the changes were crucial to providing proper education to the state's school children.

"In order for children to learn, they have to be healthy," Cleveland said.

Phillips said she also was encouraged by findings on parental awareness of their children's' weight status. Parents reported an increase in their children's healthy habits at home, with 80 percent reporting they limited chips, sodas and sweets for their children last year, compared to 76 percent in 2004.

Phillips said she didn't know how long it would take for the changes to produce a drop in the number of overweight children overall.

"Success isn't going to happen overnight," she said. "The train is just leaving the station."
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