ONE OF EVERY 6 SCHOOL KIDS IN CITY OBESE
A new report from Denver Public Health found that almost one out of every six children in Denver was obese during the 2015-16 school year.
Almost one out of every six children in Denver is obese, according to a new report Thursday. And while a campaign to reduce consumption of sugary drinks may be making inroads into obesity for the youngest kids, deep racial and ethnic inequity remains for obesity in all children.
The new report, from Denver Public Health, found that 15.6 percent of children in Denver ages 2 to 17 were obese during the 201516 school year. Obesity in the report is defined using a child’s height and weight. Studies have put the overall obesity rate in Colorado at around 20 percent for people of all ages, the lowest rate in the country.
Older children were more likely to be obese than younger kids, according to the Denver Public Health report, and boys were more likely to be obese than girls. But the biggest disparity occurred along racial and ethnic lines.
Only 5.7 percent of white, non-
Hispanic children were considered obese, according to the report. Meanwhile, 14.7 percent of black children and 20.9 percent of Hispanic children were considered obese.
“It could be very easy to look at Denver adult obesity statistics and conclude that childhood obesity is no longer a concern in our community,” Dr. Bill Burman, the executive director of Denver Public Health, said in a statement. “In reality, this report shows that obesity and differences in who is obese are major issues in the health of our community.”
One of the main reasons for the disparity is how much sugar kids are drinking every day, said Jennifer Moreland, a public health planner at Denver Public Health.
Moreland said sugary beverages — not just soda, but also sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks with added sugar — are the leading cause of obesity in children. And those extra calories add up quickly throughout the day. The Healthy Beverage Partnership, which is sponsored by the state Health Department and works with Denver metro-area health officials to reduce obesity, estimates one 20-ounce soda has the same amount of sugar as nearly 18 cookies.
There is also research that suggests the hundreds of millions of dollars that makers of sugary drinks spend nationwide every year on marketing disproportionately impacts kids, especially minority kids, Moreland said. One report in 2014 that was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that African-American children saw 90 percent more ads for sugary drinks than did white children, and that many of those ads starred African-American stars — such as sports drink ads featuring famous athletes. The same report stated that children watching Spanishlanguage television were more likely to see ads for sugary drinks than those watching English-language television.
In the big picture, Denver Public Health’s campaign to reduce consumption of sugary drinks has yet to show results. Overall childhood obesity rates in Denver have been flat since at least the 2012-13 school year, according to the report.
But, in that same time, obesity among children ages 2 to 5 has declined, to 9.2 percent from 10.6 percent. Moreland said it is too early to say for sure that the decline is a result of the campaign against sugary drinks. “But we are hoping that this is a start,” she said.