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Children's Health

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Obesity Falling in Some Kids, but Not All

Study Shows Racial Gap in Childhood Obesity Getting Bigger

‘Efforts Not Reaching Most Vulnerable’

The analysis was limited to California schoolchildren, but the researchers point out that about one in eight children in the U.S. live in the state.

“I don’t think this is limited to the West Coast,” Madsen says. “We are certainly seeing similar trends in the larger, more diverse states like Texas and New York.”

While the findings suggest that efforts to reduce childhood obesity are having an impact, they also suggest that these efforts are not reaching the most vulnerable kids, such as those from low-income families.

Schools that serve predominantly poor students typically have the least resources to devote to public health initiatives like those that target obesity.

Madsen says doing away with this inequity would represent a major step in addressing the disparity in childhood obesity.

Pediatrician Sandra Hassink, MD, who directs the Nemours Obesity Initiative at A.I. Dupont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., says efforts to raise awareness about childhood obesity and address the issue have had an impact.

Hassink chairs the American Academy of Pediatricians’ Obesity Leadership Workgroup.

"We continue to see opportunities for physical activity and choosing healthy foods expand for some, but not for all, children,” she tells WebMD. “We may be missing barriers that might keep these interventions from being accessible to all.”

She adds that efforts to address childhood obesity must begin at home with parents and caregivers. She suggests:

  • Limiting the availability of sugary drinks and energy dense, nutritionally lacking snack foods within the home
  • Cooking healthy meals at home more often and eating out less often
  • Eating evening meals together whenever possible
  • Keeping televisions out of children’s bedrooms

“Families need to take stock and assess their own health behaviors,” she says. “After this the next logical step is to ask schools or community groups what they are doing.”

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