For some teenagers in the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) facing the upcoming school year as a statistic isn’t something to look forward to. But in fact, about 18.1% of all teenagers (adolescents aged 12-19 years) in RUSD are starting this school year as just that: a statistic counted because of their body weight. They are Riverside County’s teenage morbidly obese.
According to additional statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, another 15% of teenagers attending RUSD are considered at risk for being considered overweight based on their BMI/Body Mass Index measures. About 25% of the total student population admits they are involved with absolutely no physical activity in a month’s time. Many of them have developed diabetes and suffer other weight related health issues.
In turning to RUSD for help, the overweight teens’ pleas for help do not fall on deaf ears. According to Penny Stone, Coordinator of Health Services at RUSD for about thirty years (recently retired) “of the three unified school districts, none have a ‘stand alone’ program for the obese teen.” But for the individual teen who reaches out for help at their school, they can expect to find helpful advice for eating right, specialized physical education and at some schools in the district, individual plans to help develop overall good habits towards a successful weight loss with a subsequent weight management plan.
Ms. Stone stated that RUSD had been approached in the past about implementing weight loss programs at the district’s schools, but after checking out all aspects of those programs, they were not seen to provide a balanced program beneficial for positive changes. “We don’t expose our kids to marketed programs, they are vulnerable and we know that.” The fierce protectiveness towards these teens was evident in her voice as she talked about the long term affects obesity has on teenagers. “Obese teenagers become obese adults,” was her way to bottom line the subject. It was clear that Penny Stone is enthusiastic about helping find solutions for the young people affected by this obesity epidemic, and offers hope with the education of individuals and family through local resource groups.
While the real hope for Riverside teens battling obesity should begin at home, the Riverside Unified School District will be standing strong alongside those willing to step steps to make positive changes in their culinary choices.