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Widespread Drop in Obesity Seen Among Low-Income Pre-Schoolers

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a small but significant decline in childhood obesity in 19 states and territories among low-income pre-school students. Many hailed the news as a promising sign that childhood obesity has reached its peak and may now begin to decline nationwide. It may also be a promising sign that some programs aimed at reducing childhood obesity and increasing access to healthy food and physical activity might be working.
 
It is especially good news that the decline was seen among lower-income children, often the group most likely to face the dual problem of food insecurity and obesity. Increasing access to healthier food in schools, more fresh fruits and vegetables in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), and better education about health, obesity, and nutrition all seem to be having an impact. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has numerous programs aimed at improving health and food quality for school children and lower-income families, such as the Farm to School grant program and the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. Some also partially attribute the declining obesity rate to an increase in breastfeeding.
 
Although the overall decline in childhood obesity is small, it is widespread; and there are parallels in how every community can begin to improve children’s health locally—by making small changes and taking it step-by-step. All communities need access to healthy food options and fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as opportunities to walk or bike to school and work, and education about food choices, physical activity, and health. Someone’s income or neighborhood should not determine their access to healthy food, quality medical care, or a healthy lifestyle. This exciting news from the CDC suggests that we may be beginning to move in the right direction.
 
UNCA member organization the Neighborhood House Association (NHA) in San Diego has won national recognition by Let’s Move! Child Care, and First Lady Michelle Obama for their Healthy, Fit, and Happy Head Start nutrition program. The nutrition program provides daily meals to over 2,000 low-income children in the Head Start program and eliminates processed and pre-packaged foods through the inclusion of local, fresh, natural, and organic foods. NHA has also developed a Farm to Preschool partnership, and has created a city-wide Let’s Move Head Start Olympics. The State of California has also recognized NHA  through the Healthy, Fit and Happy in the New Year program. Damon Carson, NHA Vice President of Children Youth and Family Services, welcomed the CDC findings:
 
“Neighborhood House Association (NHA) celebrates the results of the recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report demonstrating a national reduction of childhood obesity rates among low income families.
 
As operators of a large Head Start program, we are proud of building a wellness program that is helping underserved communities improve their quality of life.
 
NHA looks forward to continue making a difference in reducing childhood obesity and supporting children and families in creating a healthier future.”

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Blog | by Dr. Radut