People want schools to help prevent childhood obesity, survey says

Students with snacks from the school store at Miguel Contreras High School in Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Ninety percent of Americans said schools should take a role in combating obesity -- a surprising cut away from the idea that being overweight is a personal choice.

That doesn’t meant people don’t see that they need to take action as well for themselves and their families, according to the results of a Field Research poll released Wednesday.

“It really indicates a sea change in how people view the problem,” Loel Solomon, vice president for community health at Kaiser Permanente, said in an interview. “People are ready to act for themselves, their families and their loved ones, but they know they can’t do it alone.”


Only 19% of those surveyed said that obesity was only a personal issue.

Solomon also said the survey showed “pretty broad consensus on strategies” such as physical exercise, safe walking routes to schools and fresh drinking water at schools.

More than 60% said the schools should take a leading role in fighting obesity, and 78% of parents in the nationwide poll think healthier school food will improve academic performance.

The Field poll was conducted by telephone for the healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente this year. The results were presented at a conference on obesity in Long Beach.

Among other findings:

-- More than 80% of people said they endorsed new federal nutritional standards for school meals that require more produce and whole grains and less salt. There also was strong support for extending those standards to food kids buy at school stores and other spots outside meals.

-- Ninety percent of those polled said it is highly important to make clean drinking water available at schools, and 83% said it is important to teach children about healthful eating in schools.

-- Half the people said junk food should not be sold to raise money for schools.

-- Nearly 75% of people said community groups should be involved, including food and beverage companies, restaurants and faith-based organizations.

-- More than 90% of people said they were willing to do such things as set aside time for physical activity, encourage loved ones to see a doctor about their weight and modify their own diets.

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