A bit of good news in the continuing fight to curb childhood obesity is coming out of New York City: since 2006, the percentage of obese children in grades K through 8 has dipped slightly. The finding, from an analysis by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the December 16 issue of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The CDC report found 21.9% of the approximately 700 000 K-8 students enrolled in public schools in 2006 were obese and 20.7% were obese in 2010-2011, a 5.5% decrease. The decrease was found among children in all age groups and in all socioeconomic and racial/ethnic populations. Still, not all groups fared equally well: the decrease in obesity was 1.9% among black children, 3.4% among Hispanics, 7.6% among Asian and Pacific Islanders, and 12.5% among whites.
The decline in obesity rates among New York City children comes at a time when childhood obesity rates appear to have stabilized nationally. But despite this possible leveling off or decline of childhood obesity rates, public health experts point out that obesity rates are still too high and that overweight and obese children are more likely to develop risk factors that can lead to respiratory, metabolic, and cardiovascular illness.
Authors of the CDC report noted that from 2003 through 2009, New York City implemented multiple interventions to address the increase in childhood obesity. Such measures included requiring group child care programs to improve nutrition, increase physical activity time, and limit screen time for video games, television, and computers. Also, school nurses were trained to identify and monitor children at high risk for obesity and to know when to notify patents that a problem existed and when to refer for additional medical care. Although interventions occurred during the time of declining obesity rates, the authors of the report cautioned they could not definitively conclude that they contributed to lowering the obesity rates.