The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John In­gold

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.

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