child gardening - whirledkid-CC-FlickrAfter decades of rising rates, obesity among low-income preschoolers declined in 19 states and U.S. territories, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report found that Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw at least a one percentage point decrease in their rate of obesity from 2008 through 2011. Twenty states and Puerto Rico held steady at their current rate. Obesity rates increased slightly in just three states.

Previous research shows one in eight preschoolers to be obese in the United States, but CDC Director, Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. says, “the tide has begun to turn.”

“While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction.”

First Lady Michelle Obama whose “Let’s Move” campaign has been promoted in schools and on kids’ television said, “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.”

“We know how essential it is to set our youngest children on a path towards a lifetime of healthy eating and physical activity, and more than 10,000 childcare programs participating in the Let’s Move child care initiative are doing vitally important work on this front.”

For this Vital Signs report, CDC researchers analyzed measured weight and height for nearly 12 million children aged two to four years who participate in federally funded maternal- and obese boy-CC-artist in doing nothing-Flickrchild-nutrition programs.  Forty states and the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) were included.

“Many of the states in which we’re seeing declines have taken action to incorporate healthy eating and active living into children’s lives,” said Janet L. Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “We must continue to strengthen and expand proven strategies that help our children live healthier lives by avoiding obesity in the first place.”

CDC is encouraging state and local officials to step up efforts to drive down rates of childhood obesity. Business leaders, childcare providers, healthcare providers, communities, and families are some of the groups that influence nutrition and physical activity in the places where young children live, learn, and play. Some examples:

  • Make it easier for families to buy healthy, affordable foods and beverages in their neighborhoods.
  • Provide access to safe, free drinking water in places such as community parks, recreation areas.
  • Open gyms, playgrounds, and sports fields during non-school hours so children can play safely after school, on weekends, and over the summer.
  • Improve nutrition and physical activity for kids at day care.

For more information about childhood obesity, visit

Photo credit: Whirledkid-CC-Flickr

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