Good news for fight against childhood obesity

10.08.2013 05:33

After decades of warnings about the rapidly
rising rate of childhood obesity, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
has some good news. A new report from
the CDC suggests we've made some
progress in the fight against childhood
obesity in the nation's youngest children --
specifically those from low-income families.
Researchers analyzed data from
approximately 12 million children between
the ages of 2 and 4 who participate in
federally funded nutrition programs. Data
from 40 states, Washington, the U.S. Virgin
Islands and Puerto Rico were included in
the Vital Signs report.
Nineteen of the states and the U.S. Virgin
Islands saw a small but significant decline
in preschoolers' obesity rates between 2008
and 2011, according to the CDC. Three
states -- Colorado, Pennsylvania and
Tennessee -- saw a slight increase over
the same time period, and the rest
remained stagnant. Utah, Wyoming,
Louisiana, Texas, Maine, Delaware, Alaska,
Oklahoma, Virginia and South Carolina
were not included in the report due to
inconsistencies or changes in data
"It's a bright spot for our nation's young
kids, but the fight is very far from over,"
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.
An estimated one out of every eight
preschoolers in the United States is obese,
according to the CDC report. The numbers
are higher in African-American and
Hispanic populations, at one in five and
one in six, respectively.
Children who are overweight or obese as
preschoolers are five times more likely to
be overweight or obese as adults, Frieden
said. This can increase their risk for health
problems such as cancer, heart disease,
diabetes and stroke.
Government initiatives such as the first
lady's Let's Move! program have tried to
encourage child-care providers to offer
outside play opportunities, reduce screen
time and serve fresh fruit and vegetables
at every meal. They've also tried to
eliminate fried foods and sugary drinks
from young kids' diets. While the CDC
cannot prove that programs like these are
making a difference, Frieden said, it's
obvious that something has changed.
"Today's announcement reaffirms my belief
that together, we are making a real
difference in helping kids across the
country get a healthier start to life," First
Lady Michelle Obama said in a statement.
"We could not be more encouraged by the
progress we have made, but we have a
long, long way to go before we can rest
and know the next generation is on a much
healthier path," said Sam Kass, executive
director of Let's Move! and the White
House's senior policy adviser on nutrition.
"We will take this moment to double down
on our efforts and really see this through."
Previous smaller studies have shown similar
declines in other child populations, Frieden
said, but this is the largest national data
system that exists. He said the CDC is
confident that the declines shown in these
19 states are a sign of a national
downward trend.
Obesity rates among low-income
preschoolers steadily increased between
1990 and peaked in 2007 at close to 15%.
They have since flatlined. This is the first
sign of a turning point.
"Obesity is a complex problem, and we
know addressing it isn't going to be quick
or simple," Frieden said. "It's not going to
turn on a dime."