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Year Three Evaluation: Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003 to Combat Childhood Obesity

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Abstract:

In 2003, Arkansas became the first state to undertake a statewide initiative (Act 1220) to combat childhood obesity and future related illnesses. Under Act 1220, 94 percent of public school students in Arkansas were weighed and measured and assigned a body mass index (BMI). Thirty-eight percent of them were classified as overweight or at-risk for weight problems. About 15 percent of kindergartners were overweight and 17 percent were at-risk; 23.3 percent of 5th to 7th graders were overweight and 18.4 percent were at-risk; in high school, proportions declined as the number of overweight girls fell. However, 40 percent of high school boys remained either overweight or at-risk. Overweight was not evenly distributed racially, as Caucasians had lower rates (37%), and African Americans and Hispanics higher rates (41% and 46%, respectively). Many children from all ages and categories had not been previously identified by a doctor as having a health risk. Act 1220 also contains provisions for eliminating or reducing food and beverage vending machines in elementary schools, reporting by schools of money obtained from such contracts, incorporating nutrition and physical activity into school plans, and other related provisions.



This report summarizes individual schools and school district profiles, providing the first detailed assessment for any state on childhood and adolescent obesity at state, county, school district and school levels. The report also describes how a BMI is calculated, how the data were collected and who collected them, what reports were generated from this data, and what was sent to parents or guardians. All data is broken down by age, racial/ethnic classification, gender, grade, and aforementioned geographical/district information. For example, for each county, information concerning how many African Americans are overweight, how many males, and total number overweight students, is available. Acts 1220 and 29 also are reproduced in their entirety. A sample of the report forms sent to parents are duplicated. Clinicians' guides to weight problems in children and adolescents also are included in this report, as they were part of Arkansas' initiative.



Arkansas' childhood overweight problem is significantly higher than the national average. The statewide assessment detailed in this report is a groundbreaking effort by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement to inform parents and communities of potential health risks to their children, and to spur action that will reduce the problem of overweight in Arkansas' youth.