Food and Nutrition

CDC Says Obesity Epidemic in Kids May be Slowing

| by CDC

Major racial and ethnic differences persist

One of 7 low-income, preschool-aged children is obese, but the obesity
epidemic may be stabilizing, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The prevalence of obesity in low-income two to four year-olds increased from
12.4 percent in 1998 to 14.5 percent in 2003 but rose to only 14.6 percent in
2008, said the report, based on CDC′s Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System
(PedNSS)
. The study is in the July 24, 2009 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“These new data provide some encouragement, but remind us of two things—one,
too many young children are obese, and two, we must not become complacent in our
efforts to reduce obesity among young children,” said Dr. William H. Dietz,
director of CDC′s Division of
Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity
. “Childhood obesity remains a major
public health problem that increases the risk of developing serious chronic
diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and adult obesity.”

The report shows that the prevalence of obesity for this group has remained
constant or declined since 2003 among about half of the states, territories, and
Indian tribal organizations contributing to PedNSS. The study defined obesity as a
body mass index -for-age at or above the 95th percentile based on the 2000
sex-specific growth charts.

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American Indians and Alaska Natives are the only race or ethnic groups with
increasing rates between 2003 and 2008. Obesity prevalence among these children
continued to rise about a half percentage point each year from 2003 to 2008.

In 2008, obesity prevalence was highest among American Indian or Alaska
Native (21.2 percent) and Hispanic (18.5 percent) children, and lowest among
white (12.6 percent), Asian or Pacific Islander (12.3 percent), and black (11.8
percent) children.

In 2008, only Colorado and Hawaii reported 10 percent or less of low-income
preschool-age children were obese. The only PedNSS contributors with rates over
20 percent were Indian
Tribal Organizations
.

“To reduce childhood obesity, it is important that we create environmental
and policy changes that promote physical activity and good nutrition,” said Dr.
Andrea Sharma, CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the 2008 PedNSS study.
“These include greater consumption of water and fruits and vegetables and lower
consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and foods high in fats or added
sugars.”

PedNSS is a voluntary state
surveillance system that collects data primarily on children from birth through
4 years of age enrolled in federally funded programs that serve low-income
children, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women,
Infants, and Children (WIC). Currently, records on about 8 million children are
submitted annually from 56 contributors including states, the District of
Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Indian Tribal Organizations.