Childhood obesity: Latest numbers show downward trend
By Dr. Georgene Collins

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It's back-to-school time, and there is great news recently published on childhood obesity statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity statistics are on a downward trend.

Although more work is needed, this is great news and shows the improvements work. This is especially true among low-income children ages 2-4. Among this group, there was a net decrease in obesity rates in 16 of 43 states and territories. Further, obesity rates remained unchanged in 21 of 43 states and territories.

Despite this good news, obesity rates among children, especially preschoolers, are still too high. A study by Ryan Masters recently noted complications of obesity account for 20 percent of premature deaths in the United States.

A major problem with childhood obesity is the disease follows children into adulthood. According to the CDC, the risk of becoming an obese adult is five times higher when overweight or obese in the preschool years. Lifelong obesity struggles include social, physical and emotional consequences.

Early intervention and prevention are the best tools to combat childhood obesity. Yet early intervention relies on understanding the causes of childhood obesity. Some of the known causes of childhood obesity include an excess intake of sugary drinks, advertising of snacks and unhealthy foods, lack of dietary standards and regulations in day care, and inadequate physical activity. Other causes include lack of supply of safe playgrounds, affordability and access to healthy foods, increased portion sizes, and lack of education and support for breastfeeding.

Yet the current childhood obesity statistics are reason for celebration. The rates show the efforts of many making a positive impact. Leading the childhood obesity fight is Michelle Obama, who introduced the Let's Move campaign in 2012. Let's Move is a group effort aimed to improve community activity and nutrition for children.

Another governmental effort is the WE Can! Program by the National Institute of Lung Heart and Blood. WE Can! is a community educational program for teachers and parents to encourage healthy habits that support an ideal weight.

By far, parents deserve the most recognition. Parents have a tough job in helping children stay healthy. This is especially true with the massive amount of advertising of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks. Yet the statistics show parents are encouraging healthy habits for their children.

Supporting proper nutrition, such as fruits and vegetables, and encouraging exercise while limiting screen time are healthy habits parents can promote. Setting a good example also helps children develop lifelong healthy habits.

These statistics are just the beginning. Further recommendations by the CDC include changes in public policy to collect obesity-related health information and measure the effects of healthy programs. These measures can provide valuable information for future interventions. In addition, states can support and carry out nutritional programs for low-income families to aid good health and prevent disease. Clearly, everyone's efforts help childhood obesity statistics.

Dr. Georgene Collins, Ph.D., RN, CPHQ, is a registered nurse and women's weight loss mentor. Collins, once obese, has maintained her 145-pound weight loss since 2005. Collins maintains certification in nutrition, weight management and wellness through the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. You can learn more about weight loss and weight management at www.DrGeorgeneCollins.com.