Kids in Philly suburbs generally healthy, but gaining weight

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    (Photo via ShutterStock)

    In recent years obesity rates have declined for kids in the city of Philadelphia. But the same does not appear to be true in the suburbs.

    In recent years obesity rates have declined for kids in the city of Philadelphia. But the same does not appear to be true in the suburbs. Drawing from state databases and household surveys, a new Public Citizens for Children and Youth report has investigated the health of kids in Philadelphia-area suburbs by tracking 15 measures of well-being.

    While a majority of kids in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties are in good health, an increasing number are gaining too much weight, said Colleen McCauley, the health policy director with Public Citizens for Children and Youth,.

    “We were pretty stunned to see an increase in obesity and overweight children across all counties,” McCauley said. “It’s close to one in three of children now, across all Southeastern Pennsylvania, who are overweight and obese.”

    Of the four Philadelphia-area counties surveyed, Montgomery County saw the highest increase; the percentage of heavy children there jumped from 23 percent to 31 percent in four years. 

    And in many counties, those numbers are even higher for minorities and the disadvantaged. By 2012 in Chester County, 73 percent of black and 82 percent of Latino kids were overweight, as were 82 percent of poor children.

    It’s not all bad news, however. Most suburbs have lowered rates of teen birth and infant mortality as well as the frequency of hospitalizations for kids with asthma.

    Less than 5 percent of area suburban kids lack health insurance, the study found, although McCauley noted that translates into tens of thousands of children. In Chester County, that number is also growing. McCauley said she is focused on reducing that number, especially among the undocumented children who under current state law are not eligible for government assistance.

    “Children’s health is better when they have access to health insurance,” she said. “And we’ve almost done it in Pennsylvania. We need to change 13 words in state law to enable every child to be eligible for public health insurance.”

    New York and Illinois, among other states, do not limit coverage to citizens.

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