Finally, some good news about public health, nutrition and wellness.
And not one story mentioned meat as something to be avoided.
According to a comprehensive report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of obesity among low-income preschoolers declined—albeit slightly—in 19 states and U.S. territories between 2008 and 2011.
Objectively, that may not seem all that monumental, but since the obesity rates have been rising for decades, even minimal progress in the other direction is welcome.
According to this week’s CDC Morbidity and Mortality Report (talk about a depressing masthead!), Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands all reported a decline of at least one percentage point in the obesity rate among children between ages 2 and 4 who participate in federally funded maternal and child nutrition programs. Equally encouraging, obesity rates remained stable in 20 states and Puerto Rico; they increased, but only slightly, in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
“The tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a prepared statement. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction”
That reversal is important for two well-documented reasons. First, the chronic diseases that typically accompany long-term obesity—hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular complications—account for a huge share of national health care costs. CDC estimates place the cost of treating and managing those conditions at 75% of all U.S. health care costs. That’s a staggering annual total of almost $2 trillion dollars.
Second, research has shown conclusively that obesity in childhood practically guarantees a lifelong struggle with weight management. And as Frieden noted, “Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of serious health problems for life.”
Thus, even a slight decrease in the frightening statistics showing that one in eight preschoolers are obese or overweight represents a positive development that is highly impactful.
Searching for answers
The big question, of course, is why? Why have obesity stats at least begun to trend downward?
CDC officials credited three factors, two being obvious, and a third that’s less well-known:
- Healthier foods nutrition programs, such as USDA’s National School Lunch Program
- Greater participation in youth health and physical fitness programs
- An increase in breastfeeding