Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) January 18, 2013
A report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documents that the obesity prevalence among low-income preschool-aged children in Los Angeles County (LAC) and New York City (NYC) is on the decline. The study authors compared prevalence rates of early childhood obesity in NYC and LAC, documenting differing trends in the two most populous regions of the US. In NYC, obesity prevalence rates of preschool-aged children reached a peak in 2003 and have declined every year since. By comparison, prevalence rates increased in LAC through 2008 before leveling and beginning to decline. “We have been tracking early childhood obesity prevalence in LA for the last 10 years and have been very concerned about the steady increases we were documenting. The leveling and downward trend that has emerged in the last three years is very encouraging” said Shannon E. Whaley, PhD, co-author of the study.
Children in the study were participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Over two-thirds of all infants born in LAC and over half of all preschool-aged children are served by WIC in LAC. WIC provides a prescribed supplemental food package (including low-fat milk, fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods) to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children up to the age of five. Core WIC services also include nutrition education, breastfeeding support and referrals to health care and other social service providers. As part of routine service delivery, infants and children are weighed and measured every six months and these measurements provided the basis for examination of obesity prevalence across all children served by WIC in LAC and NYC.
“This is a landmark study that documents for the first time a sustained decrease in obesity in early childhood in NYC and the beginnings of a similar trend in LAC”, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Health Officer and Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “The findings suggest that we can impact the obesity epidemic in early childhood, with the right interventions and investments. The focus on early childhood is critically important as it helps lay the foundation for healthy behaviors that can reduce obesity risk and promote health over the course of a lifetime.”
While the report does not address the reasons behind this turnaround, the authors are hopeful that these data will encourage researchers, policy makers and the public health community to carefully examine investments and policy strategies that contribute to reductions in early childhood obesity. “These results confirm the previously noted geographic variation in the descriptive epidemiology of childhood obesity; similar comparative analyses of population-based childhood obesity prevalence will provide the opportunity for identifying policies and interventions that are contributing to the reversal of the epidemic in different segments of the U.S. population,” said Jackson Sekhobo, an epidemiologist with the NY State Department of Health and lead author of the study.
Funding for the LAC analysis was provided by First 5 LA. Lynn Edmunds, DrPH from the New York State Department of Health and Maria Koleilat, DrPH, of Public Health Foundation Enterprises, also co-authored the report.