Forty percent of more than 635,000 students in the city from kindergarten through eighth grade were found to be either overweight or obese, according to the city’s Departments of Education and Health.
The data collected from 2008-2009 showed the obesity levels throughout different neighborhoods. But in Corona, the weight problem is worst than any of the other communities.
Fifty-one percent of the city schoolchildren living in ZIP code 11368 were either overweight or obese. In Corona, 29 percent have body mass indexes (BMI) high enough to be declared clinically obese.
“Health metrics in Corona are very low across the board,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents Corona and sits on the City Council’s Health Committee. “We already have high rates of diabetes and hypertension. If childhood obesity isn’t addressed now, we are going to see more and more diabetics and more and more people dying of heart attacks in their 20s and 30s.”
The other five neighborhoods facing the same obesity problem as Corona are East Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, Williamsburg and Bushwick, where over 45 percent of the kids were classified as fat last year and in 2007, according to the city.
In other Queens neighborhoods like Breezy Point (ZIP code 11697), 27 percent of the kids were overweight or obese, and 23 percent in Douglaston (ZIP code 11363).
It’s a different story in the Upper West Side (ZIP code 10069) near Carnegie Hall, which has the thinnest kids. There, 86 percent of kids are normal weight, 10 percent are overweight and less than 1 percent is obese, the figures show.
Dr. Maria Martorell-Fox, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates in Corona, has been fighting the battle against childhood obesity since she became a doctor 40 years ago. She said parents and schools need to provide their children with healthy food options like fruits and vegetables.
“People need more education about the food that they eat,” Martorell-Fox said.
But for parents like Giselle Poblano, 39, who lives in Corona, feeding her four kids healthy sometimes is hard. She said Corona, which has a large Latino immigrant population, has many fast food places and not enough green markets. Her four-year-old daughter is overweight and loves eating spaghetti. Poblano said she tries to keep her daughter active by taking her out to walk in the neighborhood.
“The truth is that as a mother one has to feed the kids,” Poblano said. “Sometimes to make our lives easier, we buy them a pizza or a hamburger.”
Martorell-Fox said parents need to take responsibility for their children’s health. She said they can start by cooking healthier at home, making their kids lunch so they can take it to school, and avoid eating the school’s sometimes unhealthy lunches. She said if their kids are already overweight to take them to a pediatrician and see how they can help their kids lose weight.
“They have to take care of it now before it is too late,” Martorell-Fox said. “Ignorance is contributing more to the problem that the lack of concern.”
Lack of exercise is also blamed for the high obesity figures. That’s why Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who also represents Corona and other areas, said he created the Play Street on 78th Street and Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights so that kids could have a place to burn some calories while having fun. Dromm said he plans to create a bicycle riding club at a local elementary school as a way to promote fitness.
“Kids are not as physically active as they were in the past,” Dromm said. “I encourage kids to get of the couch and do fun things.”