CDC Reports Improvement in Childhood Obesity among Young Children Enrolled in WIC

34 states report modest decreases

Press Release

Embargoed Until: Thursday, November 17, 2016, 1:00 p.m. ET
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Obesity among low-income children (aged 2-4 years) enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) decreased from 15.9 percent in 2010 to 14.5 percent in 2014. In addition, 34 of 56 WIC State Agencies reported modest decreases in obesity among young children.

The findings come from a study jointly released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. CDC and USDA researchers analyzed obesity trends from 2000 to 2014 among young children, aged 2-4 years, from low-income families enrolled in WIC. The children’s weight and height were measured by WIC clinic-trained staff according to a standard protocol, and children’s weight and height records during the most recent certification were included. The final analytic sample over 22 million children aged 2–4 years from 56 WIC State Agencies.

“We are beginning to see some progress reducing childhood obesity in some areas, but more progress is needed,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Only by accelerating and sustaining this trend, can we reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity.”

Modest decline in childhood obesity follows a decade of increasing obesity rates among young children.

The CDC/USDA study found that:

  • From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of obesity among 2-4 year olds increased from 14.0 percent to 15.9 percent, then dropped to 14.5 percent from 2010 to 2014.
  • Obesity prevalence varied by state, ranging from 8.2 percent in Utah to 20.0 percent in Virginia.
  • From 2010 to 2014, obesity prevalence decreased overall among all major ethnic groups.
  • From 2000 to 2014, obesity prevalence decreased significantly among Asians/Pacific Islanders, from 13.9 percent to 11.1 percent.
  • In 2014, obesity was higher among Hispanic children (17.3 percent) and American Indian/Alaskan Natives (18.0 percent) than among children who were non-Hispanic white (12.2 percent), non-Hispanic black (11.9 percent), or Asian/Pacific Islander (11.1 percent).

“As a leading public health program for mothers and their young children, WIC is committed to promoting healthy lifestyles among its participants.  A variety of efforts to reduce childhood obesity are under way at the national, state, and community levels, and this study suggests that they’re starting to make a positive impact,” said Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at USDA.  “But we can’t stop there.  USDA will continue to tackle this issue through our programs and partnerships because we all have a role to play in reducing childhood obesity.”

The authors noted several factors that may have contributed to the drop in obesity among young children enrolled in the WIC program:

  • In 2009, USDA redesigned WIC food packages to align with the updated U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This change led to improved dietary quality of WIC food packages, better nutrition education, and more healthcare referrals. The WIC food packages help establish successful long-term breastfeeding, provide WIC participants with a wider variety of food, and offer WIC State Agencies greater flexibility in prescribing food packages to adapt to participants with cultural food preferences.
  • National, state, and local childhood obesity programs and reports helped raise awareness among various stakeholders, including parents, early care and education providers, community and business leaders, industry, health care providers, and public health officials. These included the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations on early childhood obesity prevention.
  • CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity provided funding, training, and guidance to states, local health agencies, and daycare providers to help promote successful childhood obesity prevention strategies in early child and education settings.

For more information about CDC’s childhood obesity prevention efforts, visit


Page last reviewed: April 26, 2017