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PRESS RELEASE

July 21, 2004

MacKay Jimeson
(850) 245-0413

Departments of Education and Health Announce Results of 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

TALLAHASSEE — Officials with the Florida Department of Health and Florida Department of Education today announced that results of the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that over the past two years the percentage of overweight high school students has increased nearly 20 percent. The self-reported survey of high school students indicates that diet and exercise are areas of particular concern.

"These results raise critical concerns regarding the unhealthy behaviors of Florida's youth and the long term health consequences that will result," said Secretary John O. Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H. "The significant lack of physical activity and nutritional wellness is endangering the health of a significant percentage of Florida's teens."

In 2003, Florida's youth were more likely than students nationally to be at risk for behaviors related to physical inactivity and nutrition. The survey indicates that over 40 percent of Florida high school students watch television for three or more hours a day, while over half of the students do not partake in muscular strengthening or toning exercises three or more times a week.

In recent years, public health entities have noted significant increases in overweight and obesity in youth and adults. Unhealthy lifestyles that include physical inactivity and poor nutrition increase the risk of overweight and obesity which, significantly increases the risk for chronic diseases including some cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

"A physically and mentally healthy child performs better in the classroom and has a better ability to learn," Education Commissioner Jim Horne said. "It is necessary we promote a healthy lifestyle through parent, teacher and community involvement, to the benefit of our students. We must continue to make nutritional menu options and physical activity and athletics a priority."

The YRBS provides information concerning lifestyle choices of Florida's youth while assisting in the establishment of appropriate resolutions to help them live healthier lives. Data for the study were collected from students in grades 9-12. Also examined in the YRBS were tobacco use, alcohol consumption, sexual behavior, and personal safety among high school students.

For more information on obesity visit http://www.doh.state.fl.us; and the YRBS results, visit http://www.doh.state.fl.us/disease_ctrl/epi/FYTS/YRBS_7_07_04.pdf.