After rising for decades, obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declined slightly in nineteen states and U.S. territories between 2008 and 2011, a report from the finds.
According to the latest (6 pages, PDF) report, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw declines of at least a percentage point in the obesity rate among children between the ages of 2 and 4 who participate in federally funded maternal and child nutrition programs. Rates held steady in twenty states and Puerto Rico, while they increased slightly in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Roughly one in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese, and research has found that children who are overweight or obese between the ages of 3 and 5 are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. "Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states," said CDC director Tom Frieden. "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."
CDC officials said the improvement most likely is attributable to three broad trends — healthier foods being mandated in nutrition programs, including more fresh fruit and vegetables instead of juices; an increase in breast-feeding, which some research has linked to lower risk of obesity; and greater public awareness of health and physical fitness programs. The report recommends that state and local governments step up their efforts to reduce obesity rates by expanding access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages; helping schools open gyms, playgrounds, and sports fields during non-school hours; and creating partnerships with civic leaders, child care providers, and others to make changes that promote healthy eating and active living in their communities.
"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, director of CDC's . "We must continue to strengthen and expand proven strategies that help our children live healthier lives by avoiding obesity in the first place."