Obesity Rates for Low-Income Preschoolers Fall in 18 States

Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands had the largest absolute decreases in prevalence of obesity, with a drop of at least 1 percentage point, the report says. Obesity rates held steady in 20 states and Puerto Rico. They rose in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Researchers analyzed weight and height data of about 11.6 million children ages 2 to 4 in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs. The data came from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System.

"Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states," Frieden says. "While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction."

Previous research has shown that about one in eight preschoolers are obese in the USA, the CDC says. Preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times more likely than their normal-weight peers to be overweight or obese as adults.

"It's great news, but it's too early to say that I feel confident that we are securely on the path to improvement," said James Marks, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy devoted to public health.

The results are surprising, he said, "because of the speed at which the epidemic appears to be turning around." The report shows "the highest-risk children in almost half of the states are getting healthier." Marks, a pediatrician, is the director of the health group of the Princeton, N.J.-based foundation.

Image: Healthy girl, via Shutterstock

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