New York State Department of Health to Help City of Syracuse Combat Student Obesity

State and county officials meet with school district officials during Capital for a Day to discuss ways to lower obesity rates in Syracuse

SYRACUSE, NY (October 1, 2015) – State and county officials took a tour of the HW Smith Elementary School in Syracuse Wednesday to discuss efforts to lower rates of student obesity as part of the New York State Department of Health's Creating Healthy Schools and Communities (CHSC) initiative. The tour was conducted during Governor Cuomo's third Capital for A Day event, which takes state government into local communities.

Through the CHSC initiative, the Onondaga County Health Department will receive $250,000 annually over five years as part of a statewide effort announced in July that provides $6.7 million annually to 26 contractors. The funds provided to the Onondaga County Health Department will be used to reduce rates of student obesity, which are especially high in the city of Syracuse.

"Reducing obesity among New York's youth is critical to our efforts to create a healthier state," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "Obese children are at risk of becoming obese adults, who are prone to chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Our goal is to help them prevent that by providing resources for healthier living."

Nearly 24 percent of all students in the city of Syracuse are obese, well above the regional rate of 19.6 percent as well as the county (18.2 percent) and state (17.3 percent). With more than 9,000 students, the Syracuse City School District bears a disproportionate burden of student obesity and represents the single biggest opportunity for reducing the overall rate of student obesity in the county and region.

Through the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities initiative, DOH is working with local organizations to implement strategies to combat obesity and other chronic diseases in high-need school districts and their surrounding communities, making the healthy choice the easy choice. Contractors will collaborate with high-need school districts to increase access to healthy, affordable foods, especially fruits and vegetables, low-sodium foods, and healthy beverages, by establishing food policies and nutrition standards. They will work to establish Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs and implement and strengthen quality physical education; physical activity during school day; physical activity before and after school, and staff involvement and family and community engagement.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner, Indu Gupta M.D., M.P.H., said, "Healthy eating and daily physical activity in childhood and during adolescence is important for proper growth and development. It helps to reduce the risk of becoming overweight or obese which may contribute to many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and depression. The Onondaga County Health Department is committed to working cooperatively with the Syracuse City School District and within our community to plan, develop, and implement strategies for healthy eating and increased physical activity. "

Syracuse City School Superintendent, Sharon L. Contreras said, "Every day we see firsthand the effect a student's health has on their academic achievement. Healthy students learn better, and in the Syracuse City School District, we want to take every possible measure to ensure our students success. That is why we are partnering with the Onondaga County Health Department to create healthy schools and communities. We look forward to discovering new and improved ways to incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into the school day through thoughtful, innovative policy and practices so that our students can perform at their best, each and every day."

In July, the New York State Office of General Services, Department of Health and Department of Agriculture and Markets announced several new initiatives to better connect New York schools to local growers and producers to ensure the use of fresh, healthy foods in school meals across the state and boost the agriculture industry.