Young U.S. children from poor families are seeing an unprecedented drop in their levels of obesity, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The findings represent the first time ever that the government has witnessed a widespread reduction in low-income children’s obesity rates and may bode well for America’s public health at large.
The obesity rate for poor children aged two to four fell in 18 states and the Virgin Islands between 2008 and 2011. Only three states witnessed a rise in obesity, while 19 others — as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — experienced no significant changes. That’s a far cry from a similar analysis conducted in 2009, when 24 states saw higher childhood obesity rates among low-income families and only nine states or territories underwent a decline.
Although the reductions themselves are modest — averaging around one percent — scientists consider them widespread enough to be significant. “[W]e’ve seen isolated reports in the past that have had encouraging trends, but this is the first report to show many states with declining rates of obesity in our youngest children after literally decades of rising rates,” said CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden during a press conference.~Better nutritional and public health regulations may also be a factor. Mississippi saw its childhood obesity rate plummet by 13 percent between 2006 and 2011 thanks to aggressive school nutrition and physical education programs that were passed in 2007. First Lady Michelle Obama has led a national campaign to fight childhood obesity through better food and exercise — a movement that 10,000 child care centers in America have embraced. Those nutritional policy reforms may become more widespread thanks to Obamacare funding for local preventative health care efforts and regulations taking effect this year that force public schools to trade in junk food in cafeterias and vending machines for healthier alternatives.