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Obese Children Miss More School Days
Date:8/24/2007

Teasing, health woes may contribute, researchers say

FRIDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- As children get ready to head back to the classroom, a new study finds school absenteeism is higher among overweight kids.

Obese fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders miss an average of 12 school days over the school year -- about two days more than their normal-weight peers, according to research published in the August issue of Obesity.

"This is the first study of its kind," noted study author Gary Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. "We're not saying that obesity leads to absenteeism, but whatever the relationship is, mathematically, as more kids get obese, more will be absent. That has lots of academic implications."

Foster and his team looked at 1,069 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders in nine inner-city Philadelphia elementary schools. More than 80 percent of these children were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.

Homeroom teachers recorded the student's attendance for the school year, and the youngsters' weight was measured in the second semester. The kids were put into one of four weight categories: underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese.

The study found that obese children were absent significantly more than normal-weight children: 12 days versus 10 days over the school year. Even after the researchers adjusted for age, race/ethnicity and gender, obesity was still a significant contributor to the number of days a student was absent.

"This study suggests that it is possible that obesity prevention programs could have the effect of improving school attendance in addition to reducing weight-related health risks," said Dr. Thomas N. Robinson, an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and director of the Center for Healthy Weight at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. "If obe
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