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Report: Childhood Obesity Rates Declining

PHOTO: CDC finds early childhood obesity rates declining in L.A. County
PHOTO: CDC finds early childhood obesity rates declining in L.A. County
February 6, 2013

Childhood obesity rates are beginning to decline.

A study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds fewer obese young children in Los Angeles County. The landmark study compared low-income children in the nation's two most populous regions: Los Angeles and New York City.

"The obesity rate in children ages 3 and 4 has been coming down in New York since 2003," said study co-author Shannon Whaley, director of research and evaluation for Public Health Foundation Enterprises Inc., and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program. "L.A. County has now started to turn in 2008 and 2009. Now, our obesity rates are coming down, which is very encouraging."

While the report doesn't address the reasons for the turnaround, Whaley said the findings suggest that something can be done to impact the obesity epidemic in early childhood - and the earlier, the better. Focusing on early childhood is critical, she said, because it helps lay the foundation for healthy behaviors later in life.

"We're hopeful that it'll encourage researchers, policymakers, etcetera, to start exploring what has gone on in these two cities that might be impacting these declines in obesity rates," she said.

Children in the study were enrolled in the WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program. More than two-thirds of all infants born in Los Angeles County and more than half of all preschool-aged children in the county are served by WIC.

First 5 LA provided funding for the Los Angeles County analysis. More information on the study is online at cdc.gov.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA