Study shows unchanged child obesity rates in Franklin and Grand Isle counties

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ST. ALBANS — Results from a follow-up measurement study of height and weight of young schoolchildren in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties show that rates of overweight and obesity have remained the same as of October 2019 compared to Fall 2017.

Monitoring rates of childhood overweight and obesity is one way to measure progress of community health improvement efforts like RiseVT, the lead primary prevention program of OneCare Vermont.

“Based on the results of this study, we are optimistic that strong public health efforts like those implemented by RiseVT and local partners are beginning to yield improvements in community health,” says Dr. Jennifer Laurent, obesity researcher and Associate Professor, UVM Department of Nursing and Research & Evaluation Advisor for RiseVT.

This Fall 2019 study based at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, measured 1,719 students in grades 1, 3, and 5 in schools across the region.

This data collection effort was unique in that height and weight were collected by trained study staff using highly calibrated equipment, compared to more traditional measures of height and weight, which uses self-reported data and likely underreport rates of overweight and obesity.

This study was designed to protect children’s privacy and prevent potential weight shaming.

The study used pediatric growth charts and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to define underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese.

“We are excited to see that rates of childhood overweight and obesity have remained the same in the schools in our region,” says Jill Berry Bowen, CEO of Northwestern Medical Center and Chair of the RiseVT Board of Directors.

RiseVT says they will continue to partner to strengthen school wellness policies, encourage movement wherever kids are in their day, and promote access to nutritious food for children and families.

“As a physician, I know there is no better way to prevent future chronic diseases than to instill healthy lifestyle practices at a young age,” says Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, Medical Director of Lifestyle Medicine & RiseVT at Northwestern Medical Center. “Measuring growth in children can help identify early opportunities for programs and prevention.”