Health campaign has lowered obesity rate among Fukushima children, study shows

JIJI

A push to increase exercise among children in Fukushima Prefecture has resulted in a decreased obesity rate, according to preliminary data from the education ministry.

The proportion of children who are at least 20 percent heavier than the national standard fell for 10 of the 13 grades from kindergarten through high school.

In fiscal 2012 to 2014, the proportion of such children in Fukushima Prefecture was the highest in the 47 prefectures for sixth and seventh graders, apparently reflecting restrictions on outdoor activities due to fears over radiation exposure following the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

In 2015, however, none of the prefecture’s grade groups were heaviest among the nation’s prefectures, according to an education ministry report released Friday.

The board of education in Fukushima took measures following the crisis that included a program to increase the amount of exercise during physical education classes and sending experts to schools to extoll the benefits of exercise.

The board also promoted healthier washoku Japanese cuisine for school lunches as part of dietary education.

The declines in the proportion of obese children also came after playgrounds were moved inside buildings and restrictions on outdoor activities were eased after progress in decontamination work.

“The children’s awareness of exercise is improving,” an official on the board of education said. “But we will continue efforts as the proportion of overweight children (in the prefecture) is still higher than average, with four grades having the second-highest proportions of obese children (in the country).”

Nationwide, the proportion of obese children declined, while the average body height and weight remained unchanged.

Visual acuity dropped. The proportion of children with an acuity of less than 1.0 on the Japanese scale without glasses stood at 30.97 percent, marking a record high.

An official in the education ministry said the rise may reflect the wider use of smartphones and mobile games.

The data are based on results of health checkups conducted from April to June on 3.35 million children.