WSU Study Links Childhood Obesity With Socioeconomic Factors

Aug 20, 2019

The Spokane Regional Health District and Spokane School District sponsor the Walking School Bus program that encourages children to walk to school.
Credit Courtesy Spokane Regional Health District

Researchers around the country are finding there are often links between socio-economic status and health. WSU researchers have found a similar story in Spokane. They recently released a study that includes basic data collected by the Spokane School District.

Those data include age, height and weight of elementary school aged children and whether they qualified for free and reduced price lunches. And they made some extrapolations.

“Our headline findings were kind of good news, bad news. Overall, we found that the percentage of kids who were obese in our Spokane public school district was about 15 1/2%," said Pablo Monsivais, an associate professor in WSU’s Nutrition and Exercise Physiology program and one of the lead authors of the study.

That, he says, is lower than the national average of 18 1/2%. On the other hand…

“Our schools in Spokane that serve low income families have prevalence of obesity of nearly 20%, whereas the more affluent elementary schools had prevalence of obesity of about 9%,” he said.

Monsivais says the study doesn’t explore why those statistics, especially the last one, are as they are. But he suspects there are a variety of factors, including good nutritional food is often more expensive and many of the city’s elementary schools are surrounded by arterials, making them less inviting walking destinations.

He says his team may continue to track this information in coming years to spot trends. He credits a health district and school district for a public education program that encourages children to walk to school with their parents or neighbors. And he says the Spokane district is working to improve the nutritional value of meals served at school.

The study by Monsivais and his colleagues was published late last week in the Journal of Community Health.