Childhood Obesity and Overweight Rates Rise During Summer Break


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Increases in overweight and obesity rates among young children occur during summer vacations, not during the school year, according to research from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin. A study of body mass index and obesity prevalence was done in a nationally representative sample of 18,170 children from the start of kindergarten in 2010 through the end of second grade in 2013.

Study findings include:

  • Between the start of kindergarten and the end of second grade, the prevalence of obesity increased from 8.9 percent to 11.5 percent.
  • During this time, the prevalence of overweight children increased from 23.3 percent to 28.7 percent.
  • All of the increases occurred during summer vacations. During the school years, overweight prevalence did not change, and obesity prevalence slightly declined.
  • Because prevalence increases during the summer, it appears that major risk factors lie outside of schools.

The study’s authors recommend that school-based programs try to change children’s behaviors not only when they are in school, but also when school is out. Other strategies could include working outside of schools to limit child-directed food marketing, promoting out-of-school activities such as summer schools and summer camps, reducing screen time and educating parents about nutrition.

The study was originally published online and in Obesity, an academic journal, in November 2016.

 

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