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US Sees Progress on Childhood Obesity, Trails in Prevention Efforts

usa_obesity_trendreport from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that childhood obesity rates in many states have declined; however, as much as 1 in 8 preschoolers are obese in the United States today. Carrying excess weight during childhood is concerning because obese children are more likely to become obese adults and experience both physical and mental health problems later in life. Additionally, obesity in older children and adolescents is associated with high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and asthma.

The report showed that obesity rates in low-income preschoolers began to level off from 2003 through 2008, after decades of increasing. Now, many states are even showing small declines. Looking beyond the positive trend though, obesity rates amongst preschoolers are still too high.

The CDC says that state and local officials can make an impact in reducing obesity among preschoolers, through efforts such as opening school gyms and playgrounds during non-school hours so more children can safely play. The federal government can also help by providing funding for obesity research, and by measuring trends in childhood obesity and its risk factors, according to the report. Parents and caregivers can do their part by providing nutritious meals with plenty of fruit and vegetables, encouraging kids to drink water rather than sugar-sweetened beverages, and limiting screen time. These efforts combined could potentially have a significant impact.

While many states have seen preschool obesity rates level off,  millions of Americans are obese today—as much as one third of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents (ages 2 through 19). The United States has the highest incidence of obesity worldwide, yet a new report from the Institute of Medicine shows that our nation is falling short in its efforts to curb the problem.  The US is not as adept as other countries in evaluating and selecting the best programs and policies to curb obesity, according the report.

One of the main deterrents cited is lack of funding. Additionally, the current programs aimed at curbing obesity do not have adequate leadership, guidance, coordination, accountability, infrastructure and capacity. The IOM report concluded that “more systematic and routine evaluations could help determine how well obesity-prevention programs and policies are being implemented and which interventions work best.” The authors recommend the creation of a national obesity task force.

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