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January 28, 2015

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A third of Nevada kindergartners are overweight, UNLV study finds

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More than a third of Nevada children are obese and 44 percent have a cavity by the time they enter kindergarten, according to a UNLV report released Wednesday.

Since 2008, researchers at UNLV’s Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy have surveyed the 17 school districts for demographic and health information to give state leaders detailed information to guide funding and policy decisions, said Tara Phebus, the institute’s associate director.

“The idea is to gauge the health status of children as they are entering the public school system,” Phebus, one of the study’s co-authors, said. “We know how a lower health status impacts student achievement. So taking a look at how 34 percent of kindergartners — kids around age 5 — are either overweight or obese, it’s a pretty significant amount.”

Phebus attributed the rise in childhood obesity across the country to a combination of factors, such as a decrease in physical activity and an increase in unhealthy food available to children.

“We’re seeing these things manifest at a younger age, which is what’s really scary,” she said, adding that the level of childhood obesity in Nevada has remained steady for the past three years.

More than 24,000 parents statewide were given the 27-question survey in the fall. Information was gathered on insurance status, routine care, immunizations, access to care, mental care and healthy behaviors. UNLV researchers received about 10,500 surveys back, for a response rate of 44 percent.

Some of the survey’s major findings include:

• Household income: Researchers found that more families are earning less compared with the previous two years of the study with 35 percent reporting an annual household income of less than $25,000 and 57 percent reporting an annual household income of less than $45,000.

• Insurance status: 16 percent of children entering kindergarten have no health insurance coverage. This is a slight improvement from earlier studies that showed 19 percent of kindergartners had no health insurance. Most children — 39 percent — had private health insurance, but reliance on public health insurance has grown over the past two years with 29 percent of children on either Medicaid or Nevada Check Up. Hispanic children were found least likely to have health insurance — 54 percent are uninsured.

• Barriers to health care: 80 percent of survey respondents indicated they had not experienced barriers to accessing health care. However, of the 20 percent who said they did, the majority said they had difficulty because of either a “lack of insurance” or “lack of money” for health care. Researchers noted a disproportionate percentage were Hispanic at 40 percent.

• Routine checkups: The majority of respondents — more than 80 percent — reported having a primary-care provider and a routine checkup last year. However, a growing number of uninsured children with minor, nonlife-threatening conditions have gone to the emergency room for health care, researchers said. Twenty-nine percent of kindergartners have not seen a dentist in the last year, which is a slight decrease from the first year of the study.

• Health status: Of respondents, 48 percent of kindergartners had a healthy weight, but 34 percent were considered either overweight or obese. Twenty-three percent of kindergartners have a medical condition requiring special treatment.

The majority of the survey respondents — 65 percent — were from Clark County, which is not surprising because about two-thirds of the state’s population lives in Southern Nevada, Phebus said. Clark County’s results were not that much different from the state results, Phebus added.

The Clark County School District has participated in the study since its inception. In the first year, questionnaires were distributed to all the elementary schools in the district, but in the past two years, researchers used a stratified random sample of about 140 schools to calculate its results.

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  1. its time the government start taxing fast foods, junk food and drinks 2% or more!

  2. My daughter just finished kindergarten. She is not overweight and most of the kids in her class of 29 looked pretty well proportioned to me. I packed her lunch most days but let her buy the pizza once in awhile at school.

  3. to karmensnews

    The government dosen't have to tax these foods; just make it so they can't purchase junk foods, softdrinks, candy, etc. with their SNAP (food stamp) benefits. When that happens, you will see a lot more healthy children (and adults).

  4. California proved that taxing junk food did not make for smaller people within their state. Stopping them from buying it from school also did not help.

    The problem is parents use the T.V., Computers as baby sitters instead of making the kids get out and play or have any physical activity.

    You can pretty much eat what you want if you don't sit on your butt all day.

    Since we are talking about kids here that are not in school yet I guess the only ones you can blame are the parents.

    Once they start school all schools should go back to having REAL P.E. every day. Not goof off P.E. but make them work out and get in shape. It worked for 100+ years and we did not have all the fat kids or adults we have today.

  5. "Since we are talking about kids here that are not in school yet I guess the only ones you can blame are the parents."

    And just who are you trying to place blame on for those that are already in school? It's always been the parents' fault. Overweight 5 year olds become overweight 15 year olds.

    Judging by your last paragraph, I'll assume you're looking at schools and P.E. teachers. You said it yourself... they need to go back to "REAL P.E. everyday." I teach middle school P.E. I have 6th graders for half a year, 5% of 7th graders who choose P.E. as an elective for the whole year and 8th graders for half a year. Elementary students MAYBE have P.E. twice a week. Even if "REAL P.E." was implemented everyday for every student, it still wouldn't make much of a difference. We're talking 55 minutes a day with a student for 9 months in P.E. as opposed to at least 10 hours per day all year at home.

  6. Mike,

    No, Not picking on the P.E. Teachers at all. It should be required that every school age child has P.E. five days a week.

    That 55 minutes a day would be 10 times more then most of them are getting now. It would make a difference.

  7. There needs to be an emphasis on physical education as an important component in the academic environment. If a kid is uncoordinated or underdeveloped for team sports (like the last kid picked syndrome kind of thing), get them involved in fitness activities like running, swimming, aerobics,dance, biking, anything to get the body moving. A healthy body also has a healthy mind.

  8. What an embarassment as well as a shame! This percent is unacceptable and I agree with Vegaslee on this one. Real PE for sure, hell most kids sit at the computer playing games etc instead of outdoors running around playing, like back in the day. Food choices made are also obviously poor food choices. People will say oh junk food is less expensive than fruits and vegetables. I say nay nay.

  9. My daughter was in a magnet school which is located in the heart of Las Vegas. Our family participated in one of these surveys when she was in 2nd grade.

    My much taller than the rest of her class child got labeled "obese" because the statistic of her height was not included in the survey. Weight and only weight alone. I resent that anyone would put the label on her - without taking a 5 second look at her!

    Then it got worse when she answered that her favorite food was creme brulee - yeah its about 1000 calories - but she had only had it ONCE but was so excited by it this was the only thing to come to her mind when they asked.

    Then she answered her grandparents fed it to her! This caused a phone call asking me if my parents were literate and understood she should not eat it "every day" (in answer to how often she "would like to eat it").

    Every child is different. It is sad we can't take the time to look at how we can help every unique student versus flailing ourselves over surveys.

  10. America has too many wealthy food executives that spend all day getting the kiddies to eat their junk.

    Face it: Executive salaries count more then the health of American children.

    I'm 63 years old. When I went to elementary school, there were 1 or 2 kids that looked fat. The rest of us were skinny fools. A child that is obese in kindergarten will have severe medical problems by the time they are 25 - can't loose weight, need operations & drugs to keep them alive.

    Get with the program - don't listen to advise from Privatized experts on Health: advice on what to buy is guided by executive fortunes. Executives are interested in their own and investor's fortunes and not the misfortunes of others.

  11. That's 1 or 2 kids in a Class of 30.

  12. Every child has the right to be fat. Parents have a right to have fat kids. We'll all pay for it in some form of tax or insurance premium. No need to worry. Even if you smoke in closed areas, the tax payers will eventually pick up the tab if you're uninsured or underinsured. So sleep well my fellow Nevadans. There is nothing to worry about.

  13. "I'm 63 years old. When I went to elementary school, there were 1 or 2 kids that looked fat. The rest of us were skinny fools."

    We were "skinny" back then because we spent a lot of time outside playing - regardless of the weather. We didn't have TV like today (after school it was Mickey Mouse Club) and then you went outside to play until supper time. In summer, after supper - it was outside again until the "streetlights came on". We also used our imagination when we played. Even the girls on the block were involved in the "cowboys & indians" scenario. Sure, we ate what our parents did and teh food wasn't exactly healthy by today's standards (butter was used ALL the time, fried foods were the norm) but we were ACTIVE - something today's kids are not!! Another thing - we lived in the City - we WALKED EVERYWHERE including to school!

  14. Inactivity, diet composition(fat, protein, carbs) and the caloric intake increase per meal are the culprits. The obesity trend charts enclosed start from 1985 and go through 2008. These charts show a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. This period also trends with the time when we saw a dramatic increase in the number of available restaurants including fast-food.

  15. What about all the stories that said the students were starving to death on the weekends. Did they push through the program to send kids home with food on the weekends or summer break yet?

    So which is it, are our kids fat or starving to death?

  16. Once again, I see some people blaming teachers - PE teachers and classroom teachers giving snacks. FYI, teachers are not allowed to give snacks to children since a few years ago. Beside, we do not that have that money to spare. Remember?

    Try looking at these children's homes. Parents have no time to take care of their children. They buy junk food. Children come home from school, sit in front of the TV or game, eat junk food all the way to bedtime and so do parents, when they come home, if at all.

    Yes, our streets are no longer safe unless you live in hoity toity areas. However, we still have parks where parents can take their children after school and on weekends.

    You can not legislate responsibility or common sense. Adults - the parents and the community - need to start taking responsibility for children as well, not just schools. For starters, look what those ice cream trucks sell. Look at 7-11 stores, look at groceries' check out lanes, look at commercials on TV. We teach good nutrition at school, but we have to have support at home and from the community. AND WE DON'T GET IT, just as we don't with academics.

    Sorry guys, I ain't taking blame for this one either.

  17. Will the Nevada government take action to eliminate obesity?

    Will they reclassify what is considered food?

    Will they tax unhealthy foods that have too much cholesterol, fat, and sugar.

    Or will they just maintain the status quo and do nothing?

  18. stop feeding them pizza, flavored milks with sugar and ultra sweet tea, stop giving them potato chips and stop them playing on the playstation and get them out playing

    it is not rocket science, just lazy poorly educated parents and a large corporation behind the food the kids eat in schools

  19. It's not the role of government to dictate what kids eat.

  20. It may not be the role of government to tell kids what to eat, Noindex, but when the government requires its citizens to pay for the medical ramifications of obesity in uninsured children...diabetes...then the government that we elect might just have a say here.

  21. I'm still trying to figure out which students are actually starving to death on the weekends and over the summer.

    No more donations to Three Square because obviously they did to good of a job!