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Obesity among low-income preschoolers shows decline

Wednesday August 7, 2013
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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 CDC.

Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands had at least a 1 percentage point decrease in their rates of obesity, according to the report. Obesity rates in 20 states and Puerto Rico remained steady, and rates increased slightly in three states.

Previous research shows about one in eight preschoolers is obese in the U.S. Children are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult if they are overweight or obese between the ages of 3 and 5.

"Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states," CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. "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."

For the Vital Signs report, CDC researchers analyzed measured weight and height for nearly 12 million children ages 2 to 4 who participate in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs. Forty states, the District of Columbia, 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 weíre seeing declines have taken action to incorporate healthy eating and active living into childrenís lives," Janet L. Collins, PhD, director of the CDCís Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, said in the release. "We must continue to strengthen and expand proven strategies that help our children live healthier lives by avoiding obesity in the first place."

The CDC is encouraging state and local officials to boost efforts to reduce childhood obesity, such as:

• 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 nonschool 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 TV time.

• Creating partnerships with civic leaders, child care providers and others to make community changes that promote healthy eating and active living.

"Todayís 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 the release. "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 child care programs participating in the Letís 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."

Full report: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm62e0806a1.htm?s_cid=mm62e0806a1_e.


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