By Karen Brainard
Testing fifth-graders in the Ramona Unified School District for obesity and diabetes risks this year showed that 35 percent of the students were considered at risk.
This was the eighth year the Palomar Health Community Action Council conducted the Transforming Obesity and Diabetes Awareness in Youth school-based screening program, said Nancy Roy, Ramona resident and community outreach liaison for Palomar Health. Roy provided the results at the Community Action Council meeting in Ramona Community Center on June 6.
At Ramona Elementary School, fifth-graders at risk for obesity and diabetes rose from about 39 percent last year to 56 percent this year, said Roy.
“So that’s a little disturbing,” she said.
Roy noted that Ramona Elementary had about 70 students in fifth grade.
“It could just be your pool of kids,” she said.
The percentage of at-risk fifth-graders dropped at Barnett Elementary, from 39 to 24 percent, at James Dukes Elementary, 34 to 22 percent, and at Ramona Community School, 23 to 22 percent.
At Hanson Elementary, the numbers rose slightly, from 40 to 43 percent, and at Mount Woodson Elementary, from 32 to 36 percent.
According to Roy, the testing uses a body mass index (BMI) geared to children to determine who is at risk.
This year 392 students were screened with 239, or 61 percent, coming in at a healthy weight. There were 63 (16 percent) who fell into the overweight category and 75 (19 percent) in the obese category.
Fifteen students (4 percent) came in as underweight.
For those at-risk students, testing officials followed up with the parents and provided a packet with healthy eating information and an activity calendar to fill out to promote exercise. They also advise medical insurance options if necessary, said Roy. Officials were only able to reach 37 of the 108 parents to be called, she noted.
Pointing out the importance of exercise, Roy said the council contributed $150 each to four of the elementary schools in the district with running clubs.
“Anything we can do to encourage physical activity, that helps a lot,” she said.