Researchers hope findings on local childhood obesity rates will get kids healthier and more physically active.

Two UWindsor researchers hope their recent study findings on local childhood obesity rates will help area health officials hammer home their message that kids need to eat healthier and get more physical activity. “Now that we have local data we’re really hoping that we can tailor some health promotion strategies and programs to the information that we obtained,” said Sarah Woodruff, an assistant professor in kinesiology. Along with Kathy Fryer, a lecturer in the Faculty of Nursing, Woodruff helped lead a team of researchers who discovered that Grade 7 students in Windsor and Essex County have higher than national average rates for being overweight or obese.

The team surveyed more than 1,000 students at 26 schools from both area boards and found that 42 percent of them were either overweight or obese, compared to the national average of 34 percent. The study also found: 

  • Higher than average rates of blood pressure
  • Higher measures of waist circumference
  • Only 66 percent of students eat breakfast
  • Lower than recommended consumption of fruits, vegetables and milk
  • Lower than provincially mandated participation rates in daily physical activity and high levels of sedentary activity

The study did contain some encouraging news however, including the fact that most students ate dinner with their families and are getting the right amount of sleep, said Dr. Fryer.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit — which participated in the study and posted the results on its — is currently doing a great job at offering programming to area schools to increase activity, promote proper nutrition and combat obesity, Fryer said. However, she added, the unit can reinforce the urgency of the messaging now that it has more focused local data that demonstrates the extent of the problem here. “We have been advocating in schools, but it’s very helpful to have local data,” said Theresa Marentette, manager of the health unit’s comprehensive school health team. “So our population can personalize that information and say ‘Yes, it is happening here and we need to act on it, we need to take this seriously and look at the state of our children and try to prevent the progression of chronic disease in the future.’”

Watch video interview clips with Sarah Woodruff, Katherine Fryer and Theresa Marentette.