Decrease in Student Obesity Linked to Project in Low-income King County School Districts

Journal Article by Eli Kern, Nadine L. Chan, David W. Fleming, James W. Krieger
February 21, 2014

Public Health - Seattle & King County   (Seattle)

After a two-year initiative in low-income school districts in King County, youth obesity rates declined – from 9.5% to 7.9% -- in areas where obesity-prevention efforts were deployed.  In areas not influenced by the initiative, youth obesity rates did not change. 

From 2010 to 2012, Public Health – Seattle & King County partnered with schools and community organizations to implement a two-year Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) obesity-prevention initiative. While youth obesity rates fell significantly in CPPW initiative school districts, (Auburn, Highline, Kent, Northshore, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila), rates remained the same in districts not involved in the initiative and were also unchanged in the rest of the state.

Statewide, obesity and overweight rates for 10th graders have remained steady for the past decade. The state's Healthy Youth Survey found that about 23 percent of 10th graders are overweight or obese.

Examples of obesity prevention initiative activities in King County schools include:

  • In Auburn, CPPW led to the Commit to Fit Campaign that galvanized students to eat healthier foods and be more active. "We saw the entire district get involved in various ways with the initiative. We had over 6,000 students track their nutrition and physical activity changes," said Auburn High School teacher Lori Jacobs. 
  • Seattle Public Schools established a model physical education program. "When funding was awarded, 75 percent of the equipment that had been at the school had to be thrown away and I had almost zero teaching supplies. The equipment from this grant was critical to my program," said Chellie Lafayette, Physical Education Specialist at Roxhill Elementary. 
  • Highline Schools promoted nutritious food in their school meals. "We worked directly with our students to develop an innovative marketing campaign in the school cafeterias to promote healthy choices. Now, our 11,000 students that eat lunch in our cafeterias every day have the information they need to make better choices," said Chris Neal, Director of Nutrition Services at Highline Schools.