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Childhood Obesity Rates Drop Slightly: CDC

U.S. government report finds good news in a critical fight
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Earlier research found that about one in eight preschoolers is obese, Frieden said. In addition, 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 years," he noted.

For the report, which covered 40 states (but not Texas), the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, CDC researchers looked at weight and height for nearly 12 million children aged 2 to 4 who took part in federally funded maternal and child nutrition programs.

"Obesity in kids has gotten worse over the past generation far faster than anyone could have anticipated," Frieden said. "This has happened when there has been no change in our genetics, so it's clearly a result of changes in the environment and it will be changed back by more changes in the environment."

Reversing the obesity epidemic begins with getting children to eat better and be more active, Frieden said.

To help reduce childhood obesity, the CDC recommends changes that:

  • Make it easier for families to buy healthy, affordable foods and drinks.
  • Provide safe, free drinking water in parks, recreation areas, child-care centers and schools.
  • Help schools provide safe play areas by opening gyms, playgrounds and sports fields before and after school, and on weekends and during the summer.
  • Help child-care providers adopt ways of improving nutrition and physical activity and limiting computer and television time.
  • Create partnerships with civic leaders, child-care providers and others to make changes to promote healthful eating and active living.

Dr. James Marks, senior vice president and director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, called the report particularly welcome news because it shows progress among populations that are at higher risk for obesity.

"These signs of progress tell a clear story: we can reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. It isn't some kind of unstoppable force," said Marks. "Any community or state that makes healthy changes can achieve success. However, no single change is powerful enough by itself. It has taken a sustained, comprehensive approach in the places that have succeeded."

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