Childhood obesity is becoming a crisis in Oregon, and OSU professors are working with schools and communities to get it under control.

Childhood obesity is on the rise in Oregon and the U.S.
Childhood obesity is on the rise in Oregon and the U.S.

Although Oregon is considered one of the hungriest states in the nation, 28 percent of 8th graders in the state are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

That means those children probably have a fat-rich, nutrition-poor diet and don’t get enough exercise, which can lead to serious health problems–heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure–that will affect them over their lifespan.

Obese children are likely to become obese adults, and in Oregon the Centers for Disease Control estimates the obesity figure for adults at 60 percent. Clearly the way to reverse the trend is to change the habits of the young.

That’s why the College of Health & Human Sciences and the OSU Extension Family and Community Development Program are working with schools and health practitioners to tailor programs that change nutrition and exercise behaviors of children and their families. Here are some of the programs:

  • Bilingual and bicultural Extension faculty, staff, and volunteers work with Hispanic, Native American, African American, Asian, and Russian communities that represent about half of those in limited-income nutrition programs.
  • A school-business-community collaboration in Waldport promotes eating fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water.
  • Fourth graders in Tillamook are learning the importance of calcium for healthy bones, along with ways to cook calcium-rich foods.
  • More than 450 Spanish-speaking families in Marion County participated in Las Comidas Latinas, an informal course on nutrition and food safety.
  • In Columbia County, nutrition education has elementary school children requesting more fruits and vegetables in their cafeteria.

“We have evidence that shows investments in our children pay off–that early learning and success lead to continued learning and success throughout life,” said Tammy Bray, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “We know, too, that the later we try to repair deficiencies, the costlier it becomes.”

College of Health and Human Sciences website

Extension Family and Community Development Program website

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