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New research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows a modest decline in childhood obesity rates among low-income preschoolers. This is the first time a major government report has shown a consistent pattern of decline for low-income children after decades of rising rates.

young girl exercisesPhoto credit: Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Until now, much of the decline had been limited to kids from higher-income families. This report follows similar reports of positive trends documented in West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico, California, and elsewhere.

We at HUMAN Healthy Vending are grateful for the many organizations and individuals that work to improve childhood nutrition, including our franchisees across the globe who “crush it” day in and day out by providing better-for-you snacks and beverages to their community, including Smart Snacks-In-School-compliant options.

The specifics on the study

The CDC’s study shows obesity among low-income preschoolers, ages 2 to 4, declining in 19 states, holding steady in 20, and increasing in just three. Most states dropped by a modest amount of less than one percentage point. In 2009, the last time the data was analyzed, obesity had risen in 24 states and territories, and declined in just nine.

[Full study linked here]

What’s causing the decline?

Obesity is a complex issue and the researchers involved in the study cannot pinpoint exactly what has caused the decrease, but they site several theories (though many are not geared toward pre-school children), including the following:

  • Federal regulations and policy changes.  This would include the USDA’s new competitive foods rules a.k.a. “Smart Snacks in School,” which set limits on the calories, fat, sugar and sodium of snacks sold in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. There have also been changes to the Women, Infants and Children’s (“WIC”) package of nutritious foods by aligning them with national dietary guidelines. Additionally, regulations for calorie labeling and transparent restaurant-food information may be helping consumers make more informed and healthful decisions.
  • An increase in exercise programs geared to kids. Programs like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” encourage kids to exercise more. Sam Kass, the executive director of Let’s Move, says the program now has more than 10,000 child care centers working to improve the nutrition and physical activity of kids.
  • More women are breastfeeding. Breastfed children have been found to be at less risk for obesity, according to researchers quoted in a USA Today article covering the CDC’s report [source]. Some researchers say that breastfed children learn to stop eating when they are full as opposed to children who are bottle-fed who may learn to stop when the bottle is empty rather than when they are full.

Where do we stand currently?

  • One in 8 preschoolers in the United States in obese; among low-income children, it is one in seven (obese = BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.)
  • About one in five black children and one in six Hispanic children between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese.

What else can we do to ensure children live healthful lives?

  • Ensure schools comply with the new Smart Snacks In School rules by July 1st, 2014. These rules, after all, are evidence-based and intended to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  • Push for, and invest in, parks, walking paths and bike lanes
  • Increase access to affordable and healthful foods, especially in food deserts, as well as in office locations and other places where people spend a majority of their time
  • Participate in, and fund, programs that increase and enable children’s physical activity both in, and outside of, school
  • Decrease weight stigma and bias, as it’s found to increase obesity rather than decrease it [source]

We’re on the right path. What else do you think we can do to ensure children live healthful lives?

To learn more about HUMAN Healthy Vending or about becoming a HUMAN Healthy Vending franchisee, please click here.

© HUMAN Healthy Vending, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to HUMAN Healthy Vending with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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