VOTE: Half of Watsonville Kids Are Fat. What Should We Do?

What do we do about the fact that 49.3 percent of our 5th, 7th and 9th graders are overweight or obese. What should families do? What should government do?

Nearly 50 percent of Watsonville children are overweight or obese according to a study that says our city has the chubbiest teen and tween population in Santa Cruz County.

The study was done by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“In general I’ve been looking at obesity in California for a few years now so the overall results didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was that there were an number of cities that were above 50 percent," said Dr. Susan H. Babey, the chief researcher.

The only other city in Santa Cruz County studied had a significantly lower rate; Santa Cruz is at 31 percent. The statewide average obesity rate of the more than 250 cities studied was 38 percent.

Rates ranged from as low as 11 percent in affluent Manhattan Beach to 53 percent for Huntington Park, a factory town. Both are in Los Angeles County. 

Lower income areas seem to have higher obesity rates, according to the study.

“These tend to also be the same areas that don’t have good access to grocery stores and farmers markets, and maybe have a glut of fast food restaurants and convenience stores," Babey said. Those areas also may not have parks or even safe sidewalks to walk on, she added.

Study calls for government action 

The study's authors detailed their methods and the ramifications of their findings, principally that overweight kids tend to grow into overweight adults with all the health problems associated therewith.

The findings are accompanied by nine policy recommendations, including:

  • eliminating the sale of fatty foods and high calorie drinks on public facilities;
  • establishing taxes on sugary drinks at the state and local levels to pay for the harmful effects of those products and remediate their effects;
  • eliminating advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and youth.

Babey said focusing on changes in advertising was paramount to solving the problem in her mind, because there's already work in creating more access to healthy foods and playgrounds.

“I think one of the areas that we haven’t really made that many strides yet is the area of marketing to kids," she said.

Where do you stand?

Do you consider youth obesity primarily a family problem or a community problem? 

Would you put the primary responsibility on parents to cut back on junk foods and video games and promote healthier foods and exercise?

Or should the community play the leading role, all the way from promoting good food and exercise to imposing taxes and advertising restrictions?

Or do you favor a mixture of the above?

Leave a comment below and vote in our poll.

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Cathy P. June 12, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Cut out the soda (diet too) and replace with water & milk. Limit fast food and junk food and prepare meals at home; meat should be used like a condiment rather than the centerpiece of the plate. Load up instead on veggies, salad & fruit. No TV during meal times, limit video games. Walk, ride your bike, skateboard, play ping-pong. Parents need to be the role models, kids learn by example. It's not rocket science.
Watzon McWats June 13, 2012 at 12:18 AM
The difference between Watsonville and some of the other areas with high obesity rates is that we DO infact have easy access to grocery stores, farmers markets, farm stands, sidewalks, parks, THE BEACH, THE MOUNTAINS, skateparks, bike trails, etc, etc, etc. In my opinion, the problem is that parents here don't care. If they did, I wouldn't see their children walking to school everyday eating candy and chips for breakfast. Easy access to food carts, corner stores, ice creme trucks, etc, also play a role here in Watsonville, but ultimately I believe it's the parent's faults.
Watzon McWats June 13, 2012 at 12:21 AM
It's also a cultural issue. We just don't have that active, eat your vegis, go outside and play thing that places like Santa Cruz do. It's more of a play video games and gnaw on chicharones culture here.
Patricia June 13, 2012 at 12:33 AM
A little meat can go a long way mixing it with veggies. Too often I see parents walking out of the store with cases of soda and chips and we are supposed to be a 'hungry' community? It isn't that people are hungry, it is just that they are not knowledgeable about good foods and preparation of them. Don't expect the government or the community to take over the responsibility of the children from the parents. Sit down as a family to eat and talk to one another. We need to have P.E. back in the schools at least 1 hour daily like we used to because the children are not getting the exercise at home or in their neighborhood. Better to do it at school where the kids can be safe. With all the food available in our community, I don't understand how the children could be so 'hungry.' Parents can prepare a breakfast the night before with either oatmeal that could be warmed up or fix some breakfast burritos but fix something for the children. It is up to the parents to do their share of raising the children with good manners, decent food, and good parental control.
Jennifer Squires June 13, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Maybe these new community gardens will help families eat healthier and address some of these weight issues that kids face -- and their parents probably deal with also.
Cynthia June 13, 2012 at 03:25 AM
School lunches must be closely looked at, and improved. Along with mandatory nutrition classes for students, parents, and district employes who prepare food for schools. There are times kids get sugar cereal or other items high in sugar for breakfast. And for lunch they get chocolate milk, with chocolate cookies, cheese bread sticks, or other foods high with fat (and who knows what else) . They do have a choice of a veggie or fruit, but not mandatory to pick up. If the district would take a serious interest with this obesity issue, they would hire PE teachers for every school to insure our students get their required physical activity. If parents would take control and do their part at home with healthier foods. And if the district would get it together with more nutritional school meals (choices) and mandatory physical education, we wouldn't have so many obese kids.
Quite Big Bill June 15, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Well, the obvious solution for these other hefty issues impacting our local school kids is to Tax the bejeebers out of their favorite snack foods, video games, eye-phone boom-boxes, low-rider car accessories, beer & booze, weapons, incredibly loud backyard D.J.s, gangsta inspired apparel etc. While we’re at it, level huge fines on parents whose kids are caught in any kind of juvenile offense, school-yard bullying, truancy or not keeping up with their schoolwork. No exceptions. If they can’t afford it, take their expensive toys, weapons, cars, illegal fireworks and booze away from them. Then give all those funds to perpetually “poor poor” PVUSD and the City. Oh yeah, move the City Council and County Court back into their perfectly good old buildings, sell the FIFTY TWO MILLION DOLLAR “Big Government Memorial” Sadam Palace, take a few million off the top to build yet another brand new library and quit trying to pretend that Watsonville needs even more funding.
Quite Big Bill June 15, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Because, if we begin by cutting the fat off the top in Watsonville, it will soon start “trickling down” off those plump young bottoms as well.
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