Over half of all 5th, 7th, and 9th graders in San Pablo are overweight or obese. In Danville, the rate drops to 16.5%.

City-level childhood overweight and obesity rates were recently released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.  These rates reveal marked disparities depending on where children live.

On average, 38% of California kids are overweight or obese. The five cities in Contra Costa with rates higher than the state average are also the same five cities with the lowest household incomes in the county (see chart below):

Conversely, the two cities with the lowest childhood obesity rates, Lafayette (17.8%) and Danville (16.5%), are the two cities with the highest incomes in the county, $133,268 and $129,720 respectively.  Coincidence? Unlikely, since it is well documented that chronic health problems are significantly more prevalent among low-income earners.

That’s why the report recommends several policy changes for combating childhood obesity that go beyond just individual behavior change. According to the report, “To address this health crisis, state and local leaders must address the conditions in schools and communities that contribute to the epidemic and undermine parents’ efforts to protect their children’s health.”

With the highest rate of childhood obesity in the county, the City of San Pablo is already taking action to improve the health of its residents. First, and perhaps most significant, is the City’s groundbreaking inclusion of a comprehensive health element into its 2011 General Plan.

As one of the first cities in the state to do this, San Pablo has made a bold commitment to implement policies that improve environmental and social conditions for health. Areas of focus include transportation and physical activity; food access and equity; access to services; and crime reduction and perceived safety.

In addition, San Pablo just launched its only farmer’s market on Saturday in partnership with the Pacific Coast Farmer’s Market. Although no one could recall if this was the city’s first farmer’s market, it certainly is the first one in decades. Starting last Saturday and running through November, every week at least 20 vendors, musicians, kids activities, and cooking demos will be at the market. Families using CalFresh coupons can even stretch their dollars there – for every $10 in CalFresh coupons spent, families will get an additional $5 to spend at the market.

And there will be more activities to come thanks to San Pablo’s recently formed childhood obesity prevention task force. If you are interested in joining, contact Nancy Thome (510) 215-3047.

There are dozens of local efforts like these happening in the county, which we plan to feature periodically in the Take 5 Blog. Let us know about your activities to prevent childhood obesity, particularly for young children, by contacting Tracy Irwin: tirwin@first5coco.org.

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