In this time so often filled with news of tragedies and problems, it’s so refreshing to hear some good news, and it’s very good news to hear childhood obesity may be on the decline, at long last.
Obesity in children nationwide had been dubbed “an epidemic.”
However, federal researchers have found evidence the epidemic may be waning.
The obesity rate for preschool children from poor families declined in 18 states between 2008 and 2011, according to a study. It’s the first time such a decline was reported after decades of rising rates among low-income children. We can be proud Minnesota is one of those 18 states in which there was a drop in obesity among low-income children.
The rate in Minnesota fell from 13.4 percent in 2008 to 12.6 percent in 2011, which is one of the sharpest drops nationally.
One in eight preschoolers is obese. Among low-income children, it is one in seven. The rate is highest for blacks (one in five) and for Hispanics (one in six).
“We’ve seen isolated reports in the past that have had encouraging trends, but this is the first report to show declining rates of obesity in our youngest children,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which prepared the report. “We are going in the right direction for the first time in a generation.”
No one is certain exactly why a decrease is happening, although theories abound: less intake of sugary soda drinks, healthier foods available from federal nutrition programs and increased breast feeding (which can lead to healthier weight gain among young children). Other possible reasons are increasing nutritional awareness in daycare homes and centers and improved nutrition in preschool programs. A nationwide anti-obesity program started and promoted by First Lady Michelle Obama may also have helped, the study noted. That program emphasizes wise eating and exercise habits.
One reason health experts worry about low-income children is in many cases their parents cannot afford to buy high-quality nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables or they have no ready access to such foods in inner-city neighborhoods.
Whatever the reasons, the news is good. The obesity epidemic may be permanently on the decrease. We should never rest on laurels, however. We must continue to promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyles for people – children and adults – across all income groups. That will take time; it’s a slow, incremental process, but a big part of this good news is it appears that healthy trend has already begun to take hold.