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Suburban County kids have higher obesity rates than national average

GRAPHIC: Obesity rates suburban Cook County

GRAPHIC: Obesity rates in suburban Cook County

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Updated: November 2, 2013 6:17AM



Schoolchildren in suburban Cook County have higher than average rates of obesity, and the rate for kindergartners is up to 40 percent higher than the national average, a study found.

The study of kindergarteners, sixth- and ninth-graders in suburban Cook County during the 2010-2012 school years, also found striking differences across the county: Obesity rates in western suburbs are twice as high as rates for students in northern suburbs.

“As this data shows, we have a lot more work to do,” said Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, which released the findings Monday at a news conference at a Maywood elementary school,

The study was funded by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative through which Mason’s agency and the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago received $16 million to fight obesity in Chicago’s suburbs. Among its findings:

◆ In suburban Cook County, obesity rates were 24 percent higher than national rates among ninth-graders and 16 percent higher for sixth-graders.

◆ Obesity rates in west suburbs were highest in the region in all grades. Compared to the national average of 12.7 percent, rates for kindergartners were nearly twice that; sixth-graders were 64 percent higher than the national average of 20.4 percent, and ninth-graders were 58 percent higher than the national average of 16.7 percent.

◆ Obesity rates for kindergartners in Cook County’s south and southwest suburbs were nearly 75 percent higher than in the northern suburbs. For sixth-graders, rates were more than 80 percent higher than in northern suburbs, and for ninth-graders, they were more than 25 percent higher.

With the study, Cook County doled out $4 million in grants to 38 municipalities, school districts and nonprofits to tackle the epidemic, and Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview School District 89 was lauded.

Partnering with hospitals, park districts and other community agencies, the district created new school-based wellness councils; changed school menus and built new school vegetable gardens; increased physical education, and chucked school candy fund-raisers.

“We recognized that the data that we had, particularly in western Cook County, indicated a crisis, and that a community school should be serving the needs of the local constituents,” District 89 Supt. Michael Robey said. “We undertook a communitywide effort to really fight this disease. The goal is to work on developing healthier lifestyles, not just with our children, but with our families and with our staff.”

Email: mihejirika@suntimes.com

Twitter: @Maudlynei



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