One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese. Children from low-income families make up an even heavier portion of the numbers with one in seven obese children. Now, for the first time in decades, a report from the Centers for Disease Control says the obesity trend among low income children declined across 19 states — including Kansas. Though the declines weren’t significant, it was a sign that a number of initiatives to reduce childhood obesity might be gaining traction. Some of those initiatives include increased education of parents and children about making better food choices and emphasis on increased physical — particularly outdoor — activity for children. More-healthful affordable offerings at fast-food restaurants have helped too.
Another factor cited by Midge Ransom, Franklin County health department director, is increased initiation of breast-feeding, because of changes in Women Infant and Children (WIC)-approved foods. Medicaid funding also is supporting the purchase of breast pumps for mothers to fuel increased adoption of breast-feeding. Those changes helped Kansas achieve 28.4 percent obesity rates in preschool children age 24 to 59 months in 2011 compared to a national rate of 30.4 percent.
Children who are overweight inevitably grow into adults who are overweight and/or obese, so reductions at the youngest ages can be expected to improve obesity levels for adults too. The United States boasts 69 percent of its population as overweight, including 35.9 percent who are obese, resulting in people who are more at risk to develop a number of diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Whatever the reasons, this news is a good sign for the U.S. and Kansas, both of which have turned the trajectory, albeit only slightly, in the right direction to reduce childhood obesity.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher