Healthy eating and physical activity help prevent obesity
By New Mexico Department of Health
SANTA FE, NM – The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) recognizes March as National Nutrition Month and reminds New Mexicans that healthy eating and physical activity are the two major lifestyle behaviors that can help prevent obesity.
Every year, NMDOH collects Body Mass Index (BMI) data from elementary students across the state to track childhood obesity over time, identify at-risk groups, and guide state and local prevention efforts. Obesity prevalence among third graders has decreased 12% since monitoring began in 2010, while the rate for kindergarten students has seen a 5% increase over the same period. In 2017, more than one-in-four (27.9%) kindergarten students and one-in-three (34.2%) third grade students were overweight or obese.
“These data highlight the continuing need for increasing healthy lifestyles among pre-school and early elementary school-age children and their families,” said Lynn Gallagher, NMDOH Cabinet Secretary. “There is more work to be done, but it is promising that we have the tools and the strategies for improving the health of New Mexico’s children and for helping prevent chronic disease in adulthood.”
Governor Martinez and the New Mexico Department of Health have prioritized increasing opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating for New Mexico children through its Healthy Kids Healthy Communities (HKHC) Program. HKHC has been a key NMDOH program for helping children and families eat well and move more. The program works with public elementary schools across New Mexico to improve the school nutrition and physical activity environments including:
- updating and strengthening school wellness policies.
- providing weekly fresh fruit and vegetable tastings in the classroom.
- regular salad bars, fruits and vegetables offered as school snacks.
- establishing edible school gardens.
- incorporating garden produce into school meals and snacks or offering it to families
- conducting nutrition education.
- opening neighborhood schoolyards for community use,
- walk & roll to school programs.
- and healthy lifestyle behavior challenges.
HKHC builds state and local partnerships to expand children’s and low-income adults’ opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity where they live, learn, play, work, eat, and shop. The program focuses on creating community coalitions to drive sustainable environmental, policy, and systems changes to support these behaviors.
During the 2016-17 school year, Healthy Kids Healthy Communities served:
- 32,700 students in HKHC public elementary schools have increased healthy eating opportunities such as pre-made salads, tasting classes, and fruit and vegetable school snacks.
- 25,066 students in HKHC public elementary schools have increased physical activity opportunities before, during, and after school on an ongoing and regular basis, such as walk and bike to school, mileage clubs and fit breaks in the classroom.
HKHC implements best and promising practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve school nutrition and physical activity environments; increase access to a healthy and affordable food supply, especially in rural and frontier areas; and enhance community walkability and bikability.
For the full New Mexico Childhood Obesity 2017 Update, visit:
For a Healthy Kids Healthy Communities fact sheet, visit: