Childhood Obesity rates tumble in borough, city

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (c.) announced a drop in childhood obesity citywide at P.S. 218 on Thursday, December 15.
Photo by Patrick Rocchio

P.S. 218’s salad bar was the scene of an announcement that the entire city has seen a drop in childhood obesity rates, with the largest decline among five and six year olds.

This decline in the city stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the country, where childhood obesity rates continue to rise or remain stable, it was announced at a press conference at the school, located at 1220 Gerard Avenue, on Thursday, December 15.

Mayor Bloomberg was joined by Deputy Mayor for Human Services Linda Gibbs, Department of Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., as well as P.S. 218 principal Leticia Rosario and three students at the school. The city has seen a 5.5% decline in childhood obesity cases with the larger drops among young children. Twenty percent of all schoolchildren still meet the obese classification, Farley said.

“This year saw a record decrease in the number of New Yorkers who smoke, and now we have even more good news about New Yorkers’ health,” Bloomberg said. “Even as childhood obesity in the rest of the nation has remained flat or gotten worse, in New York City, it is declining. Children who are more physically fit have fewer health problems, and fewer trips to the hospital.”

The drop in childhood obesity rates is great news for kids, families and taxpayers, Bloomberg said. The work of the administration to pioneer new health intervention strategies is paying off, Bloomberg stated.

Bloomberg announced that he is forming an obesity taskforce lead by Deputy Mayor Gibbs and Deputy Mayor Cas Halloway, as well as continuing to eliminate certain snacks from schools that can lead to children becoming overweight and obese, and continuing plans to increase the availability of open space and playstreets.

“We know that healthy, or unhealthy behaviors, begin in childhood, which is why we feel that kids need to be exposed early to nutritious food and exercise,” Gibbs said. “Over the last decade, New York City has been at the forefront of providing kids with healthier food, more opportunities for exercise and exposure to overall healthy lifestyle. It is gratifying to see our efforts result in a lower obesity rate, in sharp contrast to the flat or upward trends we see elsewhere in the nation.”

The school’s administration was praised by Chancellor Walcott for a commitment to setting the tone for wellness by encouraging the students to go outside no matter what the temperature, as well as having a salad bar and one percent milk in the cafeteria, Walcott said.

There are many initiatives in the borough that are also playing a role in lowering the obesity rate, Diaz said. These initiatives by the borough presidents’s office including the creation of a family health guide, allocating capital resources for more salad bars in schools, and a green fair, Diaz stated.

“These numbers are good news, and represent a great first step towards a healthier New York; the obesity crisis in the Bronx and throughout the city puts our children at serious risk of chronic illness,” Diaz stated. “While I am glad to see the drop in childhood obesity rates, there is still a lot of work to do, and my office will continue to work with this administration and others to help our children, and our adults, make healthier eating choices.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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