About one third of kids in Erie County are either overweight or obese, according to a report issued by the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. The organization's Community Report Card on Childhood Obesity also indicates a correlation between obesity and household income.
The report was detailed in a meeting hosted Friday morning at the Buffalo Marriott HarborCenter. According to the "Report Card," which broke down statistics by school districts, Erie County's childhood obesity/overweight rate is 31.7 percent. The three highest rates in the county were in the Lake Shore, Cheektowaga Central and Springville-Griffith school districts. The three lowest were Orchard Park, Hamburg and Grand Island.
Buffalo was two points above the county average at 33.7 percent.
When explaining the correlation between obesity rates and household income, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, who gave a presentation and then sat on a panel discussion, said that for many youths in Erie County, the only opportunity to have a healthy meal is when it is served at school.
"They may not even have access to hot meals at home," Dr. Burstein said. "Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. What your mother told you was really right."
Another factor discussed at Friday morning's meeting was exercise, namely a lack of it. While points were raised including the cost of gym memberships and organized sports, advocates say you don't need to sign up with an expensive program to get fit. It's more about a general cultural change, getting away from the couch and video games and heading outside.
"There are resources in our community that are helping kids to get together and form a community to play soccer, or just running, jogging, walking," Dr. Burstein said. "The parents get involved, and again building a community, making it a cultural norm for people to get out there and engage in these healthy behaviors."
During her presentation, Dr. Burstein offered one encouraging trend: smoking is decreasing. While the 2013-14 numbers indicated a smoking rate of 19 percent among Erie County residents, that is down several points from 2009. It is, however, also still higher than New York State's rate.