(NaturalNews) The "fall" in obesity rates among low-income, preschool-aged children in the United States from 2008-2011 that was recently reported by the CDC is making headlines, and Michelle Obama is taking credit, but have we really made any progress?
The decline may be considered scientifically significant, but in reality, not much has changed. The "significant downtrend," as the CDC calls it, is barely more than one percentage point in most cases. In only five states (Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey and South Dakota) and the U.S. Virgin Islands did obesity decline by more than or equal to 1%. Only three of these states saw a decrease that was more than 1%. Here are the percentage rates for the absolute decrease in obesity prevalence from 2008 to 2013 in the states that saw a decline:
Florida: 14.1 to 13.1 Georgia: 14.8 to 13.2 Missouri: 13.9 to 12.9 New Jersey: 17.9 to 16.6 South Dakota: 16.2 to 15.2
Only in the U.S. Virgin Islands does the decrease seem significant enough to be considered progress. Their rate fell from 13.6% in 2008 to 11.0% in 2011. And what about the other states and territories? In 21 states and territories the rates remained the same, and three states, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, even saw an increase in obesity rates! As the director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, told reporters, "It's encouraging news but we're very, very far from being out of the woods."
Many states and territories experienced a fluctuation in rates in the years tested. For example, Puerto Rico's rates have not been declining steadily. They began in 2008 with a rate of 17.9%, spiked to 18.1% and 18.3% in 2009 and 2010 respectively and finished back where they started at 17.9%, hardly much progress. Other states have followed similar patterns, according to the CDC study. And, of course, no results have been released about 2011 and 2012.
The fight is far from over
One in eight preschoolers in the United States is obese; among low-income children, it is one in seven. About one in five black children and one in six Hispanic children between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese. We should not rest on our laurels by any means. As CDC Director Tom Frieden put it, "The fight is far from over."
Are parents to blame?
Given the health risks associated with obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and other chronic illnesses, American parents need to take weight gain in children very seriously. Neglecting to take action sets children up for a lifetime of disease, as children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are five times as likely as normal-weight children to be overweight or obese. Children do not purchase the food in their cabinets and refrigerators. Adults do. Preventing young children from becoming obese constitutes responsible parenting; allowing young children to become obese borders on abuse.
What can parents do?
Instead, parents should encourage and model a healthy diet. As the Mayo Clinic's website states, "One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family. Treating and preventing childhood obesity helps protect the health of your child now and in the future." Cutting out processed and packaged foods and making half of a child's plate fruits and vegetables, as the government website MyPlate.gov (formerly MyPyramid.gov) recommends, is a certainly a step in the right direction.
About the author: Jeff Hillenbrand and Hillary Feerick have been married for eighteen years and have two children, ages eight and nine. Jeff holds a BS in exercise physiology and nutrition. Hillary has been a teacher of writing and literature for twenty years and holds a BA and MA in English. Their combined expertise and experience raising healthy children prompted them to create a superhero that gets superpowers from fruits and veggies and solves mysteries at his elementary school. The Mitch Spinach Book Series has been featured across the country on numerous radio and television programs, and, according to NPR, "Mitch Spinach is to nutrition what Harry Potter is to wizardry."
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