KPBSD hears results of recent obesity study

Nearly 36 percent of students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are classified as overweight or obese last year according to an Alaska Department of Health and Social Services study.

The study examined body mass index data for the student body over a two-year period and found that the bulk of students, 63 percent, were within a healthy weight range.

KPBSD joined two other school districts in Alaska who participated in studies with the DHSS.


While the data was not gathered in a statistically valid sampling procedure, or randomly, one of the authors, Karol Fink, said researchers used a larger sampling population to increase confidence in their results.


“We got more than 64 percent of the population represented,” Fink said. “So we kind of override it by oversampling. We feel that that’s a pretty valid way to look at the data.”


After the presentation, student representative Hayden Beard, asked if the BMI index accounted for muscle mass.


“You could have a football player who has like nine percent body fat and is huge,” Beard said.


Fink said normally those people would be considered outliers in a large enough data set.


“When you put in enough kids … you end up tending toward the mean which makes us really confident in our results,” she said. “If we had ten kids we wouldn’t be confident … it’s representing 64 percent of the district, we’re quite confident that it accurately reflects the district’s makeup.”


According to the report childhood obesity in the school district aligns closely with national obesity levels with 17 percent of students in the district being obese and a national average of 16.9 percent.


Boys were more likely to be overweight than girls and students who were identified as being of Alaska Native and American Indian descent were more likely to be overweight than other ethnicities, according to the study.


Andrea Fenaughty, who presented the results of the study to the school board, said any program meant to address obesity should take into account the needs of the minority populations as they varied between districts and individual schools.


According to the study the BMI should not be used by itself to diagnose individual children as overweight or obese.


“There are those students, football players, hockey players, or really athletic kids that, if they came up with a high BMI, hopefully the school nurse would be able to make a good recommendation to the family to talk to the provider to see if it was really an issue of being overweight or obese or if it was just their muscle density,” Fink said.


The study sampled data for two years and classified students into four weight categories by using body mass index, or BMI.


The first year of the study, 2010-11, was considered a startup year and 18 schools participated in gathering the data.


During 2011-12, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, collected height and weight measurements from 40 schools.


Rashah McChesney can be reached at