Maryland schools work to improve kids’ health as obesity hits poor the hardest

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine released a report that finds the state schools are doing more to increase the health of children. Schools are encouraging kids to be more active and eat healthier foods.

The study examined how schools were implementing wellness programs and discouraging bad eating habits.

Schools have formed wellness teams that work to develop ways to encourage kids to eat healthier and become more active. Every school in Worcester County had a wellness team at the time of the study.

Half of the county’s schools had physical activity during breaks. “Grit and Fit” programs highlight certain students’ perseverance in two key areas: healthy living and academics. Washington County also made strides in improving kids’ health and obesity, with 90 percent of schools forming a wellness team.

Physical activity in classroom instruction has also doubled.

Maryland’s School Wellness Partnership is working alongside schools in Baltimore and across the state to encourage healthy habits for kids. The Partnership will be going to 24 Maryland schools to offer tailored report and feedback on the schools’ wellness programs.

The report comes at a time when junk food is preferred over diet food or homemade food across the country. Newsweek reports that obesity is hitting the poor the hardest, with one in every three adults considered obese or overweight.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests that 33 percent of adults and many kids are suffering from being overweight. The University of Arkansas brought the study further, determining that the areas hit the hardest with obesity are those that are poor.

Researchers claim that these individuals are at an “ecology of disadvantage.”

The study looked at data from 500 of the largest cities in America. The data linked obesity as a chronic disease that has a direct correlation to where people live and their obesity levels. Sociodemographic factors were found to play a role in obesity, such as education level, age, home value and income inequality.

Areas of the country where low-income and minority populations live had a higher rate of obesity compared to areas that had higher incomes.

Studies from2016 found that Maryland is ranked 31st in the nation in obesity. The rate of obesity in Maryland was 29 percent in 2016, and researchers expect that this trend will continue to rise. Maryland’s obesity rate remained stable between 2014 and 2015, while just four states noted obesity levels declining: New York, Minnesota, Montana and Ohio.

Further studies in 2011 in Baltimore City found that walkability in high-socioeconomic neighborhoods was much better than in areas that had lower-income levels. The walkability of the city led to lower obesity rates in the higher-income cities.

Obesity remains a major concern in America, according to the University of Minnesota, which found that 20 percent of adolescents and children were obese in the United States. Adults with severe obesity rose from 5.7 percent in 2007 – 2008 to 7.7 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Obesity rates also rose from 33.7 percent to 40 percent among American adults during this span. Chronic disease, associated with obesity, is on the rise, including diabetes, some forms of cancer and heart disease.