Healthy Fifth Graders? Depends on Parents' Income and Education

According to a recent study, students from low income families are less likely to exercise.According to a recent study, students from low income families are less likely to exercise.
PHOTO: Flickr/heacphotos


One in three black and Latino children were obese compared to one in six white children in a new study from the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, the largest conducted on fifth grade students, also found that black and Latino children were less likely to exercise and were more likely to report worse overall health compared with their white peers.

For the study, researchers chose public schools in metropolitan cities such as Birmingham, Houston and Los Angeles. They interviewed children and their parents in order to assess health factors like exercise, obesity, and bike helmet use.

The study revealed that a child’s school as well as their parents’ education and income play a pivotal role in their health. Children whose parents have a higher education and higher income were more likely to be healthier no matter their ethnicity.

Among adults, studies have found that blacks are 51 percent more likely to be obese and Latinos are 21 percent more likely to be obese than whites. Overall, one in three Americans are overweight or obese. First Lady Michelle Obama has made it her personal mission to help lower these numbers, especially among children. In 2011, she  launched the “Let’s Move” campaign, an initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity. The First Lady has also worked to help end the health disparities among ethnicities and economic statuses.

Dr. Mark Schuster, who lead the New England Journal of Medicine study, believes that programs like Let’s Move and other campaigns that deal with children’s health early are the best ways to combat childhood obesity and narrow the health gap between upper and lower income families.

“Finding disparities this young suggests that we have to start young to try to address them,” Schuster told the LA Times.

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