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Study Breaks-Down Unhealthy Weights by Zipcode

August 12, 2019 06:45 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A study released by the Minnesota Department of Health shows nearly one-third of children ages two to five years old who participate in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program are at an unhealthy weight.
 
"WIC is a food and nutrition program. What that means is we offer healthy foods that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and also nutrition services," said WIC Services Manager for Olmsted County Wendy O’Leary.
 
Since 1990, Minnesota WIC has tracked the weights of children ages two to five participating in its program.

"It's important to track not only to monitor how we are doing as a program but also to assess where improvements can be made," said O’Leary.

The data shows there has been an upward trend in unhealthy weights since 2015. Researchers added that these changes are not statistically significant and may reflect normal variance within the sample. Data collected from 2013 to 2017 shows in Minnesota, 28.3% of children in that age range in WIC are at an unhealthy weight.

"A lot of our habits and the things we learn to like to eat happen in those early years and it’s such a critical time for parents to influence their child’s eating and their health," said O’Leary.

The study includes a new interactive map that breaks down the numbers by zip code. Byron is on the low-end in our area, with 27% of kids in WIC ages two to five at an unhealthy weight. In Rochester, that number ranges from 24.9% to 29.5% and in Austin it climbs to 34.8%.

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"It all plays a part. What happens at the home, if people feel safe and if they have the resources available to be active in the community," she said.

While access to healthy food, parks and exercise equipment all plays a role, Middle School Health Teacher Dawn Miller said there are routines families can incorporate at home to make a difference.

"Doing small activities such as kicking a soccer ball, little activities like general strength such as learning how to do a body squat or doing some jump squats just simple things you can do in your house and make it fun for them. I think if kids enjoy what they are doing and it's fun they'll find that fitness and a healthy lifestyle is important to them too," she said.

She added that consistency is key.

"You put it on your calendars and you make it part of your routine and that consistent routine is going to progress in a very healthy lifestyle for you and your future," she said. 

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