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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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"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."

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said that "news about obesity has been far too grim for far too long."

"Over recent years, there has been, at last, some glimmers of hope, indications that rates of obesity are plateauing or even dipping slightly for some of the people, in some places," he said.

"But of course, there is that other half of the glass," Katz added.

"Obesity rates did not decline in the other 24 states in the analysis, despite widespread awareness of the problem and increasing efforts to address it. And we also know that rates of severe obesity continue to rise, suggesting that measures of our success may need to address not just how many are overweight, but how overweight are the many," he said.

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