Several cities and states throughout the country have recently reported declines in their childhood obesity rates, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Declines occurred in locales where comprehensive action took place to address the problem. Nonetheless, obesity rates persist in various socionomic and geographic areas. Racial and ethnic disparities also persist.
The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period, according to The Centers for Disease Control.
The long term health risks are ominous. The New York Times reports that “Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, creating a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. The American Cancer Society says that being overweight or obese is the culprit in one of seven cancer deaths. Diabetes in children is up by a fifth since 2000, according to federal data.”
Following peaks in the early 2000s, some cities are reporting modest declines in their rates.
Philadelphia, New York City, Mississippi, and California are among the places reporting declining childhood obesity rates. The two Northeastern cities are among leaders in addressing the obesity epidemic. Both Philadelphia and New York City committed to long-term changes in public schools, implementing strong nutrition standards to improve the foods and beverages available to students.
At the state level, Mississippi and California are leading efforts to reduce obesity rates, creating healthier schools.
There are racial and ethnic disparities. The NYT said that higher income mostly white children showed a larger drop in obesity than black children in a kindergarten through eighth grade study. In Philadelphia a similar picture emerged with black and Hispanic children vs white children.
Growing evidence suggests that strong, far-reaching changes—those that make healthy foods available in schools and communities and integrate physical activity into people’s daily lives—are working to reduce childhood obesity rates. More efforts are needed to implement these types of sweeping changes nationwide and to address the health disparities gap that exists among underserved communities and populations, the JWF Foundation study concluded.
It’s nice to see that school programs are showing some small positive results, but clearly until kids start getting proper nutrition at home, there will be no significant change for the better. Not a very happy prospect for the long term. The fact remains that 60 percent of us are overweight and 30 percent obese.