Kids across the country are slimming down. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control documents the declining obesity rate among the nation’s youngest children. According to federal health officials, the obesity rate among preschool-age children fell in 19 states and US territories between 2008 and 2011.
This is particularly good news for poor children and children of color. One in seven low-income children is obese. One in five black children is obese.
Children from poor families have had some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity. One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese. Among low-income children, it is one in seven. The rate is much higher for blacks (one in five) and for Hispanics (one in six).
While everyone admits that this decline is a positive step, researchers can’t figure out what got the ball rolling so that it can keep rolling.
Researchers agreed that the decline was real and held good implications for future health in America. Children who are overweight or obese between age 3 and 5 are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults, creating a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
But there was little consensus on why the decline might be happening.
Some say state, local, and federal policies and programs designed to reduce obesity are finally showing an impact. The New York Times notes: “Many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work, but proponents of the programs say a broad set of policies applied systematically over a period of time can affect behavior. [Emphasis mine]
Parents of overweight children, when asked why they thought the decline had occurred pointed to “encouragement from [specialized] child care programs…, as well as warnings from doctors… But just as important, they said, were health worries that have taken hold in low-income communities because of the epidemics of obesity and diabetes.”
Clearly people are starting to get the message that being overweight is not good for your health. Parents are awakening to the realization that they don’t have to accept poor health outcomes as being inevitable for themselves or their children.
Now if only there could be an inundation of policies and programs at the state, local, and federal level alerting families to the struggles and dangers of out-of-wedlock childbearing and family disintegration. Then we could see just how effective these programs focused on behavioral modification really are.