Preschoolers obesity rates decline in 19 US States

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th August 2013

After decades of rising obesity rates, obesity among low-income preschoolers declined slightly in 19 States and US territories from 2008 through to 2011, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report found that Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the US Virgin Islands saw at least a one per cent decrease in their rate of obesity. Twenty States and Puerto Rico held steady at their current rates. Obesity rates increased slightly in three States.

The CDC said previous research showed that about one in eight preschoolers is obese in the US. 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 an epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some States,” said Tom Frieden, MD MPH, CDC Director. “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,” he said.

Announcement welcomed by Michelle Obama

The CDC announcement has been welcomed by US First Lady Michelle Obama, whose campaign ‘Let’s Move!’ is dedicated to trying to solve obesity within a generation.

“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,” Ms Obama said. “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,” she said.

“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,” Ms Obama said.

Report method

For the Vital Signs report, CDC researchers analysed measure 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 US territories (US 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, PhD, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “We must continue to strengthen and expand proven strategies that help our children to live healthier lives by avoiding obesity in the first place,” she said.

CDC encourages States to “step up efforts”

CDC said it is encouraging State and local officials to “step up efforts” to drive down rates of childhood obesity. It said 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.

CDC said State and local officials could 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.

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. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators. These include 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.


Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign