“This new information gives us hope that our efforts across the US are making a difference,” Heidi Blanck, chief of obesity prevention at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and senior author of the study, said of the findings.
“We saw the rates in 2014, which were 14.5%, had come down a little bit from 2010 [at 16%], and now in 2016, they are down to 14%. So we are continually seeing a modest drop. It gives us hope that prevention efforts are making a difference by seeing the numbers continuing to going in the right direction,” Blanck said.
Yet “these rates are still too high,” she added. “Although good news, all of us have to stay vigilant, because childhood obesity does have short-term impacts on children’s physical and mental health.”
The study involved health data on 12.4 million children, ages 2-4, who were enrolled in WIC between 2010 and 2016.
The researchers found that the overall prevalence of both overweight or obesity among the children decreased from 32.5% in 2010 to 29.1% in 2016.
“We’re also seeing these improvements in all age, sex and race ethnic groups that are part of the WIC population,” Blanck said, adding that “disparities among the low-income population are decreasing significantly.”
The study had some limitations, including that fewer children were enrolled in WIC in 2010 compared to 2016, and more research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among young children not enrolled in WIC.
She went on to explain some factors that might be driving this decline in obesity rates among young children.