Tuesday, August 06, 2013

CDC Report: Childhood Obesity Rate Has Modest Decline Among Low-Income Preschoolers

First Lady says report "reaffirms" impact of Let's Move! campaign...
Washington, DC - A new report released on Tuesday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows the rate of obesity among low-income preschoolers has had a very small but measureable decline in some states "reaffirms" the impact of the Let's Move! campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama said today. 

The CDC report covers the period between 2008 and 2011Mrs. Obama launched her national initiative in February of 2010, and launched Let's Move! Childcare, a program specifically designed for early childhood intervention, in June of 2011

Using federal government health survey data for 11.6 million children ages 2-4 enrolled in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs, researchers analyzed 40 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). 

*20 reported obesity rates that held steady.

*19 saw declines under 1%, with just Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands having a 1% decrease.  

*3 states had rates that went up slightly

"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," Mrs. Obama said.  

There are now 10,000 childcare programs participating, in Let's Move! Childcare, she said.

After climbing for decades, obesity rates among low-income preschoolers had already started to level off from 2003 through 2008, according to CDC.  Children are categorized as obese if their BMI is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex according to the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.  

About one in eight or 12% of preschoolers are obese in the US, with children "five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult if they are overweight or obese between the ages of three and five years," according to CDC.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. issued a statement declaring that "obesity remains epidemic," but he added that "while the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction."  

During a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Frieden said the report shows the possibility that the nation may have reached "a tipping point."  

Instead of years of steady increases or no changes in obesity rates, there is now a "true decline in many places around the United States," he said.

Other, smaller federal studies have cited some drops among school-age children, but the new report is the largest and most comprehensive to show declining obesity rates in poor children, CDC officials said during the conference call.

Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign has a goal of reducing the national rate of childhood obesity, currently at about 17%, to just 5% by 2030.  

"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 childcare programs participating in the Let’s Move! Child Care initiative are doing vitally important work on this front," Mrs. Obama said.

CDC officials said the decline noted in the report is most likely attributable to three broad trends:  More fresh fruit and vegetables, instead of sugary juices, are among the healthier foods now mandated in the federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs.   

There has also been an increase in breast-feeding, which some research associates with a lower risk of child obesity.  And public awareness of health and physical fitness programs could also be making a difference, they said.

"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," Mrs. Obama said.

"It’s a bright spot for our nation’s young kids, but the fight is far from over," said Frieden. 

Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass blogged about the report on the LetsMove.gov site.

"The evidence is in, and we could not be more excited!" Kass wrote, but added that "while this evidence shows we’re on the right track, it continues to be a call to action."
Researchers used the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System for the report, officially titled Vital Signs: Obesity Among Low-Income, Preschool-Aged Children — United States, 2008–2011.   Forty states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are included.  CLICK HERE for the full report and CDC's recommendations for action.


*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama.  Mrs. Obama visited preschoolers at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., on May 19, 2010.