Childhood Obesity Rates Declining, But The Numbers Are Still Too High
August 8, 2013

Low-Income Preschool Obesity Rates Fall In 19 US States

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Obesity rates amongst low-income preschoolers decreased in 19 US states and territories between 2008 and 2011, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released earlier this week.

California, New York and Florida were among the states where the obesity rate decreased slightly over the three-year period, the CDC said. A total of 43 states and territories were analyzed for the study. Of those, 21 states and territories had no change in their obesity rates, while three experienced a slight increase.

"We've seen isolated reports in the past that have had encouraging trends, but this is the first report to show declining rates of obesity in our youngest children. We are going in the right direction for the first time in a generation," Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the CDC, told Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times on Tuesday.

However, as Frieden told the Associated Press (AP), the overall numbers were still too high. The CDC report found 12 percent of all American preschoolers (one-in-eight) are obese.

Among minority children, the numbers are even higher, with 19 percent (one-in-five) of black children and 16 percent (one-in-six) of Hispanic children between the ages of two and five meeting the criteria for obesity.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kristen V. Brown said the percentage of low-income obese preschoolers fell from 17.3 percent to 16.8 percent. Furthermore, she reported obesity rates dropped by at least one percent in Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the US Virgin Islands.

The other states reporting a decrease in preschool obesity rates were Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Washington.

Sam Kass, Executive Director of "Let's Move!" and the White House's Senior Policy Advisor on Nutrition, told the AP the CDC's findings represented "a pivotal moment" in the battle against childhood obesity.

Likewise, Dr. James S. Marks, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (an anti-obesity group), said the statistics "tell a clear story: we can reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. It isn't some kind of unstoppable force."

The CDC study used height and weight measurements from 12 million children between the ages of two and four, all of whom participate in federally-funded nutrition programs, Tavernise explained. Each child's measurements were taken by trained health professionals, though 10 states were not included in the study due to incomplete data.

"There was little consensus on why the decline might be happening," she said, noting experts report children are consuming fewer calories from sugary beverages than in the past. An increase in the number of breast-feeding mothers could also be a factor, she added, as could anti-obesity programs at the federal, state and local levels.