childhood obesity

Making Streets Safe for Play in North Baton Rouge

Jul 20, 2015
Wallis Watkins

It’s a Saturday afternoon in North Baton Rouge. While cars drive down busy Evangeline Street, there are none to be seen on two blocks in the Brookstown neighborhood. Instead, kids are in the street, running, playing basketball, and jumping rope. 

National League of Cities

Baton Rouge is embarking on a new collaborative to tackle the problem of childhood obesity.

Over the next six months, the capitol city is one of seven cities joining forces through the National League of Cities to better understand obesity-related health disparities among children.

When Dr. Robert Zarr wanted a young patient to get more exercise, he gave her an unusual prescription: Get off the bus to school earlier.

"She has to take a bus to the train, then a train to another bus, then that bus to her school," says Zarr, a pediatrician at Unity Health Care, a clinic that serves low-income and uninsured families in Washington, D.C. So the prescription read: "Walk the remaining four blocks on the second bus on your route to school from home, every day."

If you think that teenagers are becoming weaklings, you're right.

Less than half of youths ages 12 to 15 are even close to being aerobically fit, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's down from 52 percent of youths in 1999 to 2000, the last time this survey was conducted. It measures "adequate" levels of cardiorespiratory fitness, which children need not only for sports but for good health.

And that was true regardless of a child's race and family income.