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Obesity among low-income preschoolers declines in many states
Nineteen states and territories report decreases in obesity among this group
After decades of rising rates, obesity among low-income preschoolers declined slightly in 19 states and U.S. territories from 2008 through 2011, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report found that Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw at least a one percentage point decrease in their rate of obesity. Twenty states and Puerto Rico held steady at their current rate. Obesity rates increased slightly in three states.
Previous research shows that about one in eight preschoolers is obese in the United States. Children are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult if they are overweight or obese between the ages of three and five years.
“Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” said CDC Director, Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction. Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of serious health problems for life.”
“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,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “We know how essential it is to set our youngest children on a path towards a lifetime of healthy eating and physical activity, and more than 10,000 childcare programs participating in the Let’s Move! Child Care initiative are doing vitally important work on this front. Yet, while this announcement reflects important progress, we also know that there is tremendous work still to be done to support healthy futures for all our children.”
For the Vital Signs report, CDC researchers analyzed measured weight and height for nearly 12 million children aged two to four years who participate in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs. Forty states and the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) were included in the report. The data come from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System.
“Many of the states in which we’re seeing declines have taken action to incorporate healthy eating and active living into children’s lives,” said Janet L. Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “We must continue to strengthen and expand proven strategies that help our children live healthier lives by avoiding obesity in the first place.”
CDC is encouraging state and local officials to step up efforts to drive down rates of childhood obesity. Business leaders, childcare providers, healthcare providers, communities, and families are some of the groups that influence nutrition and physical activity in the places where young children live, learn, and play. State and local officials can assist these groups by:
- Making it easier for families to buy healthy, affordable foods and beverages in their neighborhoods.
- Helping provide access to safe, free drinking water in places such as community parks, recreation areas, child care centers, and schools.
- Helping local schools open gyms, playgrounds, and sports fields during non-school hours so children can play safely after school, on weekends, and over the summer.
- Helping child care providers adopt best practices for improving nutrition and physical activity and for limiting computer and television time.
- Creating partnerships with civic leaders, child care providers, and others to make community changes that promote healthy eating and active living.
For more information about childhood obesity, visit www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, most private health insurance plans must cover obesity screening at no out-of-pocket cost, meaning no co-pay or deductible. For more information visit https://www.healthcare.gov/what-are-my-preventive-care-benefits/#part=3.
Vital Signs is a CDC report that appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, or MMWR. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators. These are cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, health care–associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, food safety, and viral hepatitis.
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