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Harvard obesity study: Low-income kids more at-risk

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(Read caption) Mrs. Harvey, 90, leads Lamberts Point kids move for Beyonce challenge in 2011.
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A new Harvard University study shows that richer teens are thinner than lower-income teens due to better access to exercise and recreation programs. The study reports that teens from lower-income families exercise less and are effected by less-educated parenting decisions. Still, there are parents working hard to create affordable opportunities for their kids and communities.

“Increasing Socioeconomic Disparities in Adolescent Obesity” was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It reports, “Obesity rates have fallen among children of educated parents but has continued to rise among children of less wealthy, less educated parents.”

According to the study, “Low-income neighborhoods have fewer playgrounds, sidewalks, and recreational facilities. Participation in high school sports and clubs has increased among high SES (socioeconomic status) adolescents while decreasing among their low SES peers.”

To add to this challenge, other studies report that the rising cost of after-school clubs and activities could be another reason low income children miss out.

I am thankful that here in Norfolk, Va., where we live, not only do we have some wonderful recreational facilities, but they are also affordable. Membership is only $50 a year for a family of four, which allows a family to use any rec center in the city. These same centers are free for those over age 65.

Growing economic disparity is one of the root causes of childhood obesity, especially as it pertains to the inability to afford participation in a team sport, or an after-school activity that engages kids in something other than snacking in front of the TV or a video game.

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