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Childhood Obesity Rates Drop Slightly: CDC

U.S. government report finds good news in a critical fight

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- There was a small but sure sign Tuesday that the fight against childhood obesity may yet be won: A new government report found that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers had declined slightly in at least 19 states.

After decades of increases, the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw at least a 1 percent decrease in their rate of obesity from 2008 through 2011. Rates in 20 states and Puerto Rico held steady, while rates increased slightly in three other states: Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

"For the first time in a generation, we are seeing obesity go in the right direction in 2- to 4-year-olds, and we are seeing it happen across the country," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said during a noon press conference.

"It's encouraging, but we have a lot further to go," he added. "We hope this is the start of a trend getting us back into balance."

Frieden credited the trend to such efforts as First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program and better policies in the government's Women, Infants and Children's (WIC) program, as well as increases in breast-feeding, recognition that children need to be active and eating a more healthful diet by reducing things like juices and increasing consumption of whole fruits and vegetables, and also decreasing time in front of the TV or computer.

"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," Michelle Obama said in a CDC news release.

She added, "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 child-care programs participating in the 'Let's Move! Child Care' initiative are doing vitally important work on this front. 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."

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.

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