This is How Seattle Area Schools Reduced Obesity by 17 Percent

High School Lunch Room

Youth obesity in King County in Washington dropped from 9.5 percent to 7.9 percent after a 2-year intervention geared at middle and high school students. The public health experiment took place in several low-income school districts in the county, while others served as control groups and saw no decline.

What did educators and students do? Here are some examples:

  • In Auburn, over 6,000 students started tracking their nutrition and physical activity over time.
  • Seattle Public Schools established a model physical education program, replacing old equipment and supplies with stuff that actually worked.
  • Highline Schools promoted nutritious eating by involving students in the marketing of healthful fare to 11,000 of their peers. That’s a clever approach, as any adult who tries to convince a teen to stop gulping down Mountain-Dew will attest.

Funding for the program was provided by the US Department of Health.

  • Vegan love

    Well diet soda and milk still aren’t good for you….. -_-

    • Corey Rowland

      I agree. Some would say removing milk from schools is too radical (“kids need their calcium”), but water really is the only beverage that kids need to be healthy. There are so many other things that you can get that calcium from and that are much healthier!

    • Haylee

      Why is milk unhealthy? I genuinely would like to hear your opinion, I’m not trying to be snarky or anything.

      • Vegan love

        Well milk is very acidic, and it actually leaches calcium out of your bones. Isn’t it funny how Americans drink the most dairy, but we have the highest rates of Osteoporosis?Also, mother cows are tortured in farms and are separated from their young within 48 hours of their birth.

        • Fooducate

          Like many things in life, there are pros and cons to milk.
          Vegan Love raises interesting points, but is speaking as a vegan. Without getting into the ethics of animal derived foods, if you’ll ask an unbiased nutrition professional, you’ll likely hear that low fat milk and dairy products can be a part of a healthy diet. Milk and dairy have sustained humans in Europe for thousands of years.

        • donaloha

          Vegan Love— you need to be reeducated. Milk is probably the most nutrient dense food consumed on earth. Your comments have no science basis or logical supportive evidence. Milk is not very acidic; it has a pH of anywhere from 6.7 to 7 ( 7 being neutral) so at best, it is slightly acidic. It does not leach out calcium from out of your bones. Milk calcium unlike plant protein added calcium is much more bioavailable. If milk is unhealthy, why can cats be breast fed by a lactatating dog? it is the unique dna of mammalian milk that can be recognized by cross species.

          • Corey Rowland

            Mammals are designed to drink milk, but 1) they are only meant to when they are growing as younglings and 2) they are only meant to drink milk that comes from their own species. Isn’t it a bit odd that we are the only species that regularly drinks milk of other species and also into and through adulthood? Ethics aside, in my opinion there is nothing natural about that.

          • Fooducate

            We’re also the only species that cooks its food.
            Or grows it instead of hunting it or foraging it.

          • Corey Rowland

            We are indeed, I’ll give you that. However, I think this short video does a good job of explaining why dairy actually leads to weaker bones (in addition to other problems). You can’t ignore the current scientific research out there that supports this.

          • Nicole Johnson

            I’d have to agree with your claim about milk being a nutrition dense food. Why else would mammalian bodies produce it to nourish their young. Unfortunately, the human food production system has processed the hell out of this super food such that little value compared to its original and unpasteurized state benefits humans. Just as milk has sustained human populations in Europe, so too has carrot juice been used solely on infants who had intolerance to any other form of milk or formula. The added inhumanity involved in humans exercising entitlement to cows milk by separating mothers from calves and using hormones to unnaturally perpetuate lactation is icing on the moldy cake. Not to mention the special interests of large companies behind the fallacy that human health depends upon regular servings of a food we compulsively steal. Did I mention humans are the only mammal to do so? An egocentric tragedy compounded by the very magnitude of the human population.

      • Corey Rowland

        Vegan Love hit the nail on the head. We as a nation do have the weakest bones because we consume so much dairy. Many people believe that dairy actually makes your bones stronger but a regular consumption over time actually has negative effects. There has been a bunch of research done that has proven this.

      • Doug Koch

        Of all the studies that have been done states that consume the most dairy have the highest levels of osteoporosis!!

  • JKern

    Math lesson (or fact checking) time. If a population of 100 students has 9 obese kids one day, and 7 the next, that is a reduction of 2%.

    While 7.9 happens to be 17% less than 9.5… a reduction *from* 9.5% to 7.9% is a reduction of 1.6% — NOT 17%. So, hold your applause.

    While the author of this blog will surely report that her sources also falsely calculated the decline, there’s no excuse for not reading the original research abstract (where there is no such mention of a whopping 17% decline.)

    A 17% decline in an obesity rate in any city would be on the front page of the NYT.

    The study also notes that this is observational, self-reported, and causality between the interventions and the lower rate of obesity cannot be assured since there are some many confounders that cannot be controlled.

    Overall good news? Sure. But the study was not particularly rigorous, the news not as amazing as the headline wrongly reports.

    • Jenkdr

      The obesity rate was 9.5. And 1.6 is 17% of 9.5. So, the obesity rate dropped by 17%. It always reads funny when you’re talking percent of a percent, but the author is correct.

      • JKern

        So, I guess my question to you would be “when is ‘correct’ misleading”? Yes, as acknowledged 7.9 is 83% of 9.5, however, the incidence of obesity in the population fell by 1.6%.

        The CDC did not use this imprecise math. The town and the newspaper reporters cooked it up to make a better story, here is the CDC’s version.

        The fact is that the headline here is misleading. If the headline stated that “Every Five Years One Less Kid in 100 was Obese” (from 2004 to 2012 the incidence of obesity among 100 students fell by 1.6 students for an annualized decrease of one kid every five years) you’d say “so what”? But my headline is just as accurate — actually more accurate.

        Add that perspective to the several inches of disclaimers about causality and you don’t have much of a story.

        One of my favorite textbooks was “How to lie with statistics.” This would be a great example.

  • WowLookWhosCooking

    I’d like to know more about how the students got involved in marketing to other students…