Low-income Preschool Obesity Down Slightly — Why?

Preschool obesity rates in a low-income population declined in 19 of 43 states studied, according to a new report from CDC published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Obviously, this is good news, but what does it mean and what’s causing this trend?

The truth is, we can’t be sure. But that doesn’t constrain the media and policy makers, understandably ready to be the parents of any success against this difficult problem.

First Lady Michelle Obama commented in a CDC press release on this news that “Today’s announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life.”

CDC Director Tom Frieden reflected at a press event on this news, saying “When I kind of step back and look at this, I think there are three broad trends that are encouraging.” The developments he named were:

  1. Changes in the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) nutrition program to align it with dietary guidelines for Americans.
  2. An increase in breastfeeding.
  3. Programs like Let’s Move! raising awareness of healthy eating.

A bit more objective assessment of the situation comes from David Allison, Director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center and Associate Dean for Science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He said:

This news is encouraging. It’s worth noting that the samples may not be representative of the broad population, even for children from low income families because of the way the sample is constructed. If these declines prove to be sustained and real, which would be wonderful, we still have no sound evidential basis for attributing (or not attributing) the decline to any public health measures or policies.

One can hardly blame policy makers for taking pride in progress when pursuing a goal as difficult as reversing the problem of childhood obesity.

But solid evidence provides the best foundation for such claims. Let’s gather some.

Click here to read more from USA Today, click here to read more from HealthDay, click here to read the report published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and click here to read more about the need for better measurement of obesity prevention efforts.

Just the Way You Like It Baby, photograph © Ibrahim Iujaz / flickr

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