New York City launches new effort to combat childhood obesity

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City is launching a new campaign to combat childhoood obesity.

The city health department will target doctors in neighborhoods where health is poorest, including East and Central Harlem, North and Central Brooklyn, and the South Bronx.

The campaign asks doctors to screen children for obesity, and provide referrals to food assistance programs.

It also asks physicians to tell familes of overweight students about strategies to address obesity, including eating healthy foods, being physically active, getting enough sleep, avoiding sugary drinks, limiting screen time, and choosing breastfeeding.

Nearly 40 percent of public school students in the city in grades K-8 are overweight or obese, health officials say.

"Giving providers and parents customized tools to become champions for healthy foods and more physical activity is an essential component of turning the tide on pediatric obesity," said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. "A lack of affordable and healthy food options, limited opportunities for safe physical activity outdoors, and the constant barrage of advertisements for junk foods and sugary drinks targeted at children can make it challenging for children and their families to maintain healthy diets and weights."

The health department says the rate of obesity among black students is about 65 percent greater than among white students. Among Latino students, the rate is 97 percent greater than among white students.

Only 20 percent of parents report that their child eats five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, according to health department data.

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