Friday, September 07, 2012

Pitching In To Help Philadelphia Schools' Obesity Rates Continue To Drop

Today the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that obesity rates among Philadelphia schoolchildren fell by a substantial percentage from 2006-2010. Across the district obesity rates declined nearly 5%, while some subsections of students saw drops of as much as 7.6%.  

This is obviously heartening news, and news we find encouraging because of the work our Safe Routes Philly* program has done in Philadelphia schools. 

Safe Routes Philly works with teachers and educators to encourage elementary school students to walk and bike to school safely and frequently. The health benefits of daily exercise are numerous, and this encouragement campaign nests in the prevailing strategy for combating obesity mentioned in the Inquirer article: encouraging many small health and behavioral changes in order to make a large impact.

Encouraging daily exercise through walking and bicycling is one of those small changes which compound on one another to make substantial positive changes. But Safe Routes Philly's impact has not been small:

Over the past two school years (2010-11, 11-12):
  • More than 50,000 K-6 students in the school district received Safe Routes Philly lessons;
  • 132 Philadelphia public elementary schools adopted our programming;
  • We helped place over 150 bike racks at more than 40 schools.
Through lesson programming, bike rodeos, walking school buses, assemblies, and other encouragement activities, Safe Routes Philly is promoting fun, healthy activity in our schools. What's the best part? The 5% drop in the prevalence of obesity in Philadelphia Public Schools was recorded in 2010, before our lessons were implemented. We know there is much more work to be done to curtail the obesity epidemic in our region, but we look forward to seeing the cumulative impact of our work and others' work reflected in more good news down the road.
*Safe Routes Philly is made possible by funding from the Department of Health and Human Services and is part of Philadelphia's Get Healthy Philly initiative.