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Originally published February 25, 2014 at 3:44 PM | Page modified February 25, 2014 at 4:11 PM

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Editorial: Promoting better health in schools, in just two years

In King County, major disparities in health outcomes has led to a 10-year difference in life expectancy rates between some zip codes. One way to close that gap is to create environments in schools where kids learn healthy habits.

Seattle Times Editorial

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TEN years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General warned Americans that an obesity epidemic might cause some kids to live shorter lives than their parents’ generation.

Not only have eating habits changed, but fewer students walk to school.

Even in this era of video games and junk food, the obesity trend is reversible. Students in some of King County’s poorest schools are showing what’s possible, and other schools should follow their example.

Between 2010 and 2012, school districts in Seattle, Kent, Highline, Auburn, Northshore, Tukwila and Renton split $2.8 million from the federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program.

Educators made comprehensive changes throughout the system. Some updated physical-education equipment. Others made school menus more nutritious.

Their efforts paid off.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report that highlighted a significant decrease in obesity rates among 8th, 10th and 12th grade students in CPPW schools in King County, from about 11 percent of students in 2010 to nearly 9 percent in 2012. Within those two years, the odds of a student being obese declined by 9 percent.

In nonparticipating schools, those numbers remained unchanged.

This experiment proves that targeted investments in prevention and intervention can be effective, even in low-income areas with high rates of the disease.

Lori S. Dunn, manager of physical education and health literacy programs for Seattle Schools, said the CPPW grant helped to lay a foundation that might be replicated in other districts. Community partnerships are thriving and exposing students to activities such as rowing and cycling.

“They learn it’s fun to be active and that leads to better attendance in school,” she said.

When kids form healthy habits early, they also transfer that knowledge to their families.

The result is an active community and lower health-care costs.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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