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Fewer toddlers in low-income families are overweight, study suggests

Jan 5, 2017

Childhood obesity rates for children and adolescents in the U.S. ages 2 to 10 have remained at about 17% over the past decade. But here's a bit of good news: The number of overweight toddlers in the U.S. seems to be going down.

That's according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers analyzed obesity trends for nearly 17 million U.S. children aged 2 to 4 years whose families were enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) between 2000 and 2014.

WIC is a federal assistance program that provides low-income pregnant and postpartum women and kids up to age five with supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education.

The study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found the share of kids with high "weight-for-length" ratios fell from 15.9% in 2010 to 14.5% in 2014.

The decrease is most likely due to obesity efforts over the past decade at the national, state, community and family levels. Things like the Let's Move! Initiative, the CDC's Early Care and Education (ECE) Childhood Obesity Program, and changes to the WIC food package. According to the CDC:

In 2009, changes made to WIC food packages have contributed to healthier food environments in low-income neighborhoods. This support has increased access to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for all consumers, leading to healthy nutrition behaviors, especially among women and children enrolled in WIC.

About one in six children in the U.S. are obese and nearly one in three are overweight. And kids in low-income families are at higher risk for childhood obesity. According to the University of Michigan Health blog:

In low-income communities where places to play and supermarkets may be scare, it can promote consumption of low nutrition and fast food and little to no physical activity.

Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for things like prediabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and psychological problems such as low self-esteem. And kids who are overweight or obese are likely to remain that way as adults.

So what can be done to continue to lower the rate of childhood obesity and overweight? The CDC has some recommendations, including:

 

· Enroll low-income families into programs, such as WIC and healthier retail initiatives such as Double Up Bucks Programs, to help them get affordable, nutritious foods.

· Encourage child care centers that serve low-income families to participate in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Through CACFP more than 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the day care they receive.

· Partner with civic leaders and child care providers through community coalitions to make community-wide changes that will promote healthy eating and active living for all members of the community.

 And families can make changes to their lifestyle habits, such as incorporating healthy eating and physical activity. You can check out the full study from the CDC here