Twice as Many Chareidi Children in Bottom 5 Percentile in Height and Weight
by Yated Ne'eman Staff
The percentage of children whose height and/or weight is in the lowest percentile is twice as high in the chareidi sector as in Israel's general population, according to a survey conducted by Dr. Liz Rubin, director of the Health Ministry's Mother and Child Department. The findings were presented at a conference on the prevention and treatment of obesity held by the Union of Pediatricians and the Israel Dietetic Association (IDA).
The study, which covered 80,000 children, was based on real data (not a statistical sample) for 90 percent of talmud Torah students and Bais Yaakov students in first, third, fifth and seventh grades. The figures rely on measurements taken during the 5770 school year (2009-10).
Among chareidi first graders, 6.7% are in the bottom 5 percentile, compared to 2.5% of children in the general population. Among third graders, that figure climbs up to 8.1%, compared to 3.7% in the general population. In fifth grade 7.3% are in the bottom 5 percentile, compared to 2.8% in the general population, and in seventh grade 8.2% of chareidi children, compared to 3.8% of the general population.
Similar gaps appear in weight: 6.8% of chareidi first graders, compared to 5.6% of the general population, weigh in at the bottom rung. Among third graders, 7% of chareidi children, compared to 5.7% of the general population; in fifth grade, 7.6%, compared to 5.2%; and in seventh grade the gap rose to 7.7% of chareidi students, compared to 4.4% of the general student population.
"It's important to understand that low stature (like low weight) is not a matter of height alone," noted Ruchama Frankel, a member of the IDA's Forum for Children's Nutrition who is active in fostering health in the chareidi sector. "The growth line is a sensitive gauge of the child's overall state of nutrition and health. The findings should be examined to see whether they reflect a problem of undernourishment in children and action should be taken to intervene by setting up a program to guarantee our children's proper development and growth," she said.