Nutrition intake and physical activity in a middle school in New York City.
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Abstract Purpose: The threat of childhood obesity has never been greater. Behavior changes implemented during childhood and adolescence are believed to be the most successful means of thwarting the progression of this epidemic. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a public health campaign that promotes awareness of clinical guidelines for nutrition and physical activity. The campaign is based on a concept developed by the Maine Center for Public Health referred to as "5-2-1-0 Healthy". The simple clear message of this concept outlines steps families can take to help prevent and treat childhood obesity. The purpose of the present study is to determine the current level of compliance and health education needs of a middle school population related to the "5-2-1-0" concept. Methods: A modified version of the 2010 National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) was distributed to students at a private, nonsectarian, middle school in New York City. The school is located in the borough of Manhattan, but includes youngsters from all five boroughs of the city. The questions were grouped and analyzed according to "5-2-1-0" categories. Surveys were scored, and the association between targeted questionnaire items and demographic variables (i.e., sex and grade) was examined. Results: All 140 students completed the survey, and there was great variability in their responses to both the nutrition and physical activity questions. Of all students, 65% reported eating one cup or more of fruit daily, and 38% reported eating one cup or more of vegetables daily. There was no statistically significant difference reported in consumption of fruits or vegetables by gender or grade. Over 60% of students indicated <2 h of DVD/video or computer/video game time per day, while 10% indicated more than 3 h per day for each. A significant difference existed in the screen time reported between grades (more screen time by the older students) and a statistically significant difference also existed in the amount of physical activity reported by gender and grade (more physical activity by males and younger students). There was no difference in the reported consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by gender or grade. Conclusions: In a cohort of middle school students in New York City, there was great variability in compliance with the principles represented by the "5-2-1-0" concept. Changes in health behaviors were noted as students went from 6th to 7th to 8th grade, with physical activity decreasing and screen time increasing. Consequently, health curriculum topics for middle school students should focus on physical activity and screen time, while continuing to emphasize the need for proper nutrition.