Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ZIP Codes and Healthy Communities (Yes, That Includes Schools)

For years, income has been used to predict test scores and student achievement. Now comes a new study that may throw another factor into the mix: property values.

In an article published in today's Seattle P-I, researchers at the U.W. have identified disparities in obesity rates based on ZIP codes. Property values, the researchers concluded, are a strong predictor of obesity. Each additional $100,000 in median home value for a ZIP code corresponded with a drop in obesity of 2 percentage points, the story noted.

In looking at the map that ran with today's story, it's tempting to wonder how student achievement might factor into this analysis of health and healthy habits? Would we find high achievement in communities at greater risk for obesity?

It's worth a look, particularly in light of SB 5093, the newly created Comprehensive School Health Task Force. This new commission was created in the last legislative session to The task force is currently seeking input from the school community on the following two questions:
  • What is the most critical area of school health that should be addressed by the task force?
  • What are examples of model programs or policies that could be expanded through legislative action?
In discussions at AWSP, staff concluded the task force should examine schools as a community resource and review existing programs for possible enhancement. Many schools serve meals year-round. How healthy are those meals? And could other services -- medical, dental and mental health resources -- also be offered at the school to build a stronger community? Take a look at the Parent Information and Resource Center grant just implemented by the folks at Blue Ridge Elementary in Walla Walla. What could this sort of thing do for other schools?

Better yet, what could it do for this map? What do you think?

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