Obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds in 31 states dropped between 2010 and 2014.
The recent finding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that the children were enrolled during that period in a special nutrition program aimed at low income families.
Obesity rose significantly in four states and remained stable in the remaining 15.
The program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, was not the only reason for the drop. Experts in the field say a combination of efforts over the years have contributed, including educational efforts aimed at children and schools to promote better eating habits and more physical activity, alongside more parental and public awareness.
First lady Michelle Obama has also made lowering childhood obesity and encouraging physical activity one of her signature causes.
“These declines represent an important sign of progress, and it is particularly significant since the change is among lower-income children, who are the most vulnerable,” said Laura Segal, director of public affairs for the Trust for America’s Health, a public health advocacy think tank. “While overall rates remain high, this shows that efforts can have a real impact. It’s easier and more effective to prevent obesity in early childhood than to reverse trends later in life.”
At 8.2 percent, Utah had the lowest rate of obesity among children in that age group who were enrolled in the program. Virginia, at 20 percent, had the highest. Here’s a ranking of all the states.
The national average was 14.5 percent, nearly double the 8.2 percent in 1992.
In children, obesity is defined as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.