A new survey out today shows that childhood obesity, after rising for more than two decades, appears to have hit a plateau. The data gathered from 1999 to 2006 by the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is being greeted carefully.
It is not yet clear if the pause in kids' weight gain is permanent or even if the small success is the result of public antiobesity efforts to limit junk food and increase physical activity in schools. Even if the trend holds up, 32 percent of American schoolchildren are overweight or obese
The director of the childhood obesity program at Children’s Hospital in Boston says, “After 25 years of extraordinarily bad news about childhood obesity, this study provides a glimmer of hope. But it’s much too soon to know whether this is a true plateau in prevalence or just a temporary lull.”
In the study, the number of children who fall into the obese category decreased from 17.1 percent to 15.5 percent between the 2003 and 2006 surveys — though the decline is not statistically significant.
Are state programs, like the one in Arkansas, to eliminate vending machines in elementary schools, and adding a half hour of daily physical activity to the school curriculum — or the one in Somerville, MA, that included doubling the amount of fruit served for school lunch, painting crosswalks to encourage walks to school, and increasing physical activity in after-school programs the cause of this trend? Has education and outreach worked? Are we winning the childhood battle of the bulge?