By Tammy Gray
According to Holbrook School Superintendent Robbie Koerperich, historical data shows that nearly 24 percent of the students in the district have medical issues, more than 20 percent are obese and more than 40 percent are overweight.
Koerperich gave a brief visual presentation regarding the health of the district’s students during the Jan. 14 governing board meeting, noting that an initiative dubbed “Healthy Holbrook” aims to reduce those numbers.
According to the data presented by Koerperich, 42 percent of kindergarten, 47 percent of second grade, 45 percent of fourth grade and 39 percent of seventh grade students could be considered overweight. In addition, 22 percent of kindergarten, 24 percent of second grade, 26 percent of fourth grade and 21 percent of seventh grade students could be considered obese, according to the historical data.
A body mass index (BMI) is used to determine whether a person is overweight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed a BMI chart that is age and gender specific for children so that health care professionals can accurately assess whether a child is overweight. According to the CDC, “Obesity is a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. For example, a 3-year-old boy of average height who weighs more than 37 pounds would be considered obese.”
A child who is at or above the 85th percentile, but below the 95th is considered overweight. The CDC notes that children who are overweight or obese are at risk for other health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and joint problems.
Holbrook’s statistics generally fall in line with nationwide numbers. In neighboring New Mexico, for example, a 2012 study found that approximately 37 percent of third grade students were considered overweight by the CDC’s standards, including 21 percent considered obese.
Koerperich explained that the Healthy Holbrook program is designed not only to combat obesity and create healthy eating habits, but also to prevent other health problems or catch them early on when possible. The prevention component of the program includes dental, scoliosis, vision, hearing and BMI screenings, as well as informational newsletters sent to parents.
In grade school, students are given lessons on basic nutrition, including classes such as “grow it, try it, like it” and “bone builders.” The schools also participate in a state-mandated skin cancer prevention program. At Holbrook High School, students are required to take a health class, and are offered the opportunity to participate in weight training and physical conditioning classes.
Special programs in place to promote fitness include Race Across America, 100 Mile Club, Presidential Fitness Program and Climb to Conquer Cancer. There are also a number of extracurricular activities and clubs available to students, such as the running, outdoors and rodeo clubs, in addition to team sports.
Koerperich noted that a health and nutrition newsletter created by the students is also in the works to help combat obesity and promote fitness.
According to the CDC, minority and low-income students tend to have a higher obesity rate than other students. The 2012 study in New Mexico concluded that, “In examining disparities between racial/ethnic groups by grade level, American Indian kindergarten students (23.8 percent) were significantly more likely than Hispanic (14.2 percent) and twice as likely as white (11.8 percent) kindergarten students to be obese.
“American Indian kindergartners were also significantly more likely to be obese than overweight, which was not the case for Hispanic and white kindergartners. This pattern demonstrates that American Indian children are particularly vulnerable to excessive weight gain before they start attending school.”
The CDC notes that overweight or obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults than children considered to be a healthy weight. The national obesity rate for adults was 35 percent in 2012, which was down from 36 percent in 2010, but up from 13 percent in 1960.
By Tammy Gray