Gaining Ground in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

A comprehensive four-year initiative to improve the health and wellness of students in the Chula Vista Elementary School District has resulted in the most positive trends to date in the fight against childhood obesity.

The results of the District’s 2014 measurement of the height and weight of every preschool through sixth grade student were announced Wednesday at a joint press conference with County health officials. The data collection indicated that the District experienced a 5% decrease in the number of students in the unhealthy weight category compared to 2010, when the district first collected Body Mass Index (BMI) data for its students. The decrease in students in the unhealthy weight, which includes students considered overweight or obese, is significant because obesity rates remain high nationally.

CVESD’s 2014 results are being celebrated not only as a success for the district, but as a strong indication that the community’s involvement and focus on health and safety is paying off. Discovery and Arroyo Vista 068

“This is Live Well San Diego in action,” said County Supervisor Greg Cox, referring to the County vision for healthy, safe and thriving communities. “Our schools are focusing on health and wellness for students, and we have collaborative partners working together to engage residents in healthy activities and making their communities safer.”

CVESD is the largest elementary school district in California with 45 schools, serving more than 29,000 students. It was the first district to partner with the County on Live Well San Diego, and is active on a number of health-related programs and coalitions in the Chula Vista community.

District officials noted all stakeholders—students, parents, community and local government—needed to be involved in the fight against obesity. “We know that these positive changes cannot be attributed to a single factor, but multiple influences and efforts that align with the goal of creating healthy school environments and healthy and safe communities,” said CVESD Superintendent Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.

In 2014, 1 out of every 4 kindergarteners started school at an unhealthy weight (overweight/obese); in 2010, the number was approximately 1 out of every 3. In 2014, 1 out of 5 girls (19%) was obese by the sixth grade, and 1 out of every 4 boys was obese (25%); in 2010, it was 1 out of every 3 sixth graders that fell into the obese range.

“We are expanding the good health footprint for all of Chula Vista,” Escobedo said. “This is exciting. The students are learning and adopting behaviors that they will carry with them into adulthood and hopefully pass on to their own children. We are transforming lives.”

While the 5% decrease is across the district, some schools saw larger gains. Harborside Elementary School, for example, has 9% fewer obese students from 2010.

The announcement of the measurement results was held at Harborside Park in Chula Vista, which is also a success story in supporting a heathier and safer community. The park had been a spot for illegal activity. But new fencing was installed, and land donated by Costco in Chula Vista is making the park more inviting for baseball/athletic fields that are on the campus and utilized by the community.

The County Board of Supervisors launched Live Well San Diego in 2010 with the goal of achieving healthy, safe and thriving communities across the region by partnering with community and city leaders, schools, businesses, non-profit organizations and residents. Chula Vista is home to a thriving Live Well community network that is showing positive results.

“There is great power in collaboration, and the reality is that we can do more together than we can ever do alone,” said Nick Macchione, Director of the County Health and Human Services Agency. “We want to recognize the importance of the roles that we all play in making our communities healthy, safe and thriving.”

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