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The Hard Costs of Obesity on Schools

On my daily Blog, I've talked repeatedly about all the ways obesity affects you and your family from a healer's perspective. Today, I reviewed a study, headed by former U.S. surgeon general Dr. David Satcher, that surveyed the damage the obesity epidemic has taken on our kids from a different angle: How it affects them in their schools. And the news isn't good folks.

Because improving children's health likely improves school performance, and it may even help a school's bottom line, Satcher says, schools have a vested interest in improving the nutrition and increasing the physical activity of their students.

The "lowlights" of this survey foreshadow a frightening future for our kids:

  • Schools with high percentages of students who did not regularly exercise or eat well had smaller gains in test scores than did other schools.
  • Children who do not get the recommended basic vitamins and minerals have lower test scores, are absent more often, have difficulty concentrating and have less energy.
  • Physical activity programs are linked to increased concentration and improved math, reading, and writing test scores.
  • Students taking daily physical education classes missed fewer classes, had a more positive attitude to school and earned better grades.

Where the obesity crisis among kids really kicks in: Some states use attendance figures to determine per school funding. One absent student costs a district up to $20 per day in funds.

Based on a variety of estimates of absenteeism among overweight students, a school of average size could lose anywhere from $95,000-160,000 annually. The estimated hit on the largest American cities per year could be far higher still:

  • New York -- $28 million
  • Los Angeles -- $15 million
  • Chicago -- $9 million

Yahoo News September 24, 2004

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