August 7, 2013
Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers have declined in 19 states and United States territories between 2008 and 2011, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the first major government report that has shown a consistent pattern of decline for low-income children after decades of rising rates.
Researchers suggest that an increase in breast-feeding, a drop in calories from sugary drinks, and changes in the food offered in federal nutrition programs for women and children may have contributed to the decline.
“My hypothesis is that the 2009 changes in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program played a large role in the progress, said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Director. Rudd Center research shows that efforts to encourage healthy food and beverage choices by those participating in WIC are working. “The program was altered to encourage purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables instead of juice, as well as whole-grain products and lower-fat dairy foods,” said Schwartz.
Researchers also attribute the decline in obesity to policies aimed at reducing obesity. “While it’s not possible to isolate the cause of the decline, we know from other research that strong policies supportive of healthy weight are associated with improved weight outcomes in children, said Kathryn Henderson, PhD, Director of School and Community Initiatives. “The decline in obesity in this particular group is welcome news as preventing obesity in our youngest children is key to long-term health. Additionally, low-income families experience the greatest health disparities so an improvement for these children especially is to be celebrated,” said Henderson.