Monday, July 22, 2013

Victories against childhood obesity, but harder to find among disparate groups

Localities are seeing declining rates, but improvements are uneven among socioeconomic and racial groups

Health care professionals said during a July 9 forum that parts of the nation have shown some promise in reducing childhood obesity rates, but they noted the epidemic continues to affect lower-income children disproportionately.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that more than a third of adults and 17% of children ages 2 to 19 are considered obese. But at least in the childhood obesity area, signs of declines in those rates are taking place in numerous cities, counties and states, said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The forum was hosted by Voices for Healthy Kids, a collaboration between the foundation and the American Heart Assn.
“The good news is coming from places large and small,” Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey said.  When I see that, I’m thrilled because what this tells us is we can reverse this epidemic. It tells us that we don’t have to accept 23 million children being overweight or obese.” The foundation has a goal to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity by 2015.
The issue has drawn attention from other national groups such as the American Medical Association, which adopted policy at its House of Delegates Annual Meeting in June to recognize obesity as a disease, and has launched a new campaign to improve health outcomes for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Reducing obesity rates is a challenging goal, Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey acknowledged. “Although the rates are coming down in some places, they’re still far too high. And the progress that we’ve seen has not been shared equally,” she said. Most advances in reducing obesity rates have taken place among white children in affluent communities, with fewer successes seen among African-American, Latino and low-income children. “Frankly, that’s not OK. The benefits of being healthy have to be within the reach of all of our children,” she said.
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