Princeton, N.J.—James S. Marks, MD, senior vice president and director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, issued the following statement regarding a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that obesity rates among young children from low-income families are falling in 18 states and one U.S. territory, and rising in only three states.
This exciting new CDC report shows our nation is making important progress in efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. We can feel confident about the report because the data are based on real measurements of height and weight from a large number of children from low-income families who participate in federal health and nutrition programs.
Because kids from low-income families face higher risks for obesity, this news is especially welcome. And it’s even more encouraging because it builds on other positive reports that have come from all around the nation over the past few years.
West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and California already had reported declining rates of childhood obesity. So did big cities like New York and rural areas like Vance and Granville Counties, North Carolina.
Together these signs of progress tell a clear story: we can reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. It isn’t some kind of unstoppable force. Any community or state that makes healthy changes can achieve success. However, no single change is powerful enough by itself. It has taken a sustained, comprehensive approach in the places that have succeeded.
At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we focus on six priorities evidence shows are likely to prevent obesity and help to reverse the epidemic:
- improving the nutritional quality of foods and beverages in schools;
- reducing consumption of sugary beverages;
- protecting children from marketing for unhealthy foods and drinks;
- increasing access to affordable, healthy foods in communities;
- increasing access to safe spaces for physical activity; and
- increasing children’s physical activity levels during out-of-school time.
Parents are ready. The health care and public health communities are ready. The only question now is whether leaders in all sectors―government, the food and beverage industry, education, health care, and more―are also ready to make the kind of changes that will make it easier for kids and families to make healthier choices and live healthier lives.