A first-ever report on childhood obesity finds 14.4% of children in New York ages 10 to 17 have obesity. That’s slightly below the national average, and puts the state at 25th in the nation.
"New York kind of likes to position itself as a leader, especially among public health issues," said Caitlyn O'Brien. "So I definitely think it's a little bit shocking to see that we have such high rates of childhood obesity."
Caitlyn O'Brien is Government Relations Director with the American Heart Association in New York. She says the concern is that the state’s 267,700 children with obesity are set up for a lifetime risk of chronic problems like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even some cancers.
O'Brien says New York does have a public health program aimed at educating parents, teachers and the community about healthy eating and physical activity. But there’s one problem:
"This program is severely underfunded," said O'Brien. "Obesity related diseases cost the state over 11 billion, with a B, dollars annually. Currently, New York State is only funding this obesity prevention program at 5.9 million, with an M."
She says it all comes down to access to healthy food at neighborhood stores, the school lunch counter, and vending machines. O'Brien it appears states with lower childhood obesity rates are having success.
"Making sure that water and 100% fruit juice and milk are the easily accessible options," said O'Brien."And healthier choices, so baked chips and granola bars with less sugar, applesauce, nuts and fruit and yogurt are what we are seeing offered in vending machines."
The report was compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health.