ALBUQUERQUE The prevalence of childhood obesity in New Mexico appears to be leveling off, but state health officials said Wednesday they are concerned about a trend developing between kindergarten and third grade.
Data collected by the state Health Department shows an increase in childhood obesity between the two grades. More than 14 percent of kindergartners and more than one-fifth of third-graders in New Mexico were obese in 2012. The data shows there a greater proportion of third-graders who were obese rather than overweight.
The data also shows significantly more American Indian children in New Mexico have to deal with obesity than any other racial or ethnic groups. In 2012, 1 in 2 American Indian third-graders was either overweight or obese.
In McKinley County, which borders the Navajo Nation and includes Zuni Pueblo, students can now choose between traditional hot lunches and salads. The school district serves about 1,300 salads a week in its elementary schools.
Nearly 40 percent of Hispanic third-graders and more than 26 percent of white students were either overweight or obese, according to the departments statistics.
Health Secretary Retta Ward said part of the solution involves change.
We need to set better examples by eating more fruits and vegetables and getting off the couch and being active, whether its playing a sport or just getting out to a playground, she said in a statement.
The department is using a federal grant to target prevention strategies across 10 counties and four tribal communities. Through the effort, some school districts have started buying locally grown fruits and vegetables for school meals. Some communities are also establishing gardens and building biking and walking paths.