Childhood Obesity Worst In Southeastern States, Best in West

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Most studies have shown that the Southeast has some of the highest rates in the United States for adult obesity, and new research from the US Health Resources and Services Administration shows that the same holds true for childhood obesity.

Dr. Gopal K. Singh and colleagues used data from the National Survey of Children’s Health to compare state-by-state changes in rates of overweight and obesity in children ages 10 to 17 between 2003 and 2007. Obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) in the 95th percentile or above.

Oregon had the fewest obese kids in the nation at 10% and it was the only state to show significant declines in overall overweight and obesity rates. The authors suggest several reasons for Oregon’s improvement, including a high rate of breast feeding, laws that set nutrition standards in schools, and chain restaurants that provide nutritional information on request.

Mississippi had the highest number of overweight and obese children, with 45 percent overweight in 2007, a jump from 37% in 2003 and obesity climbing from 18 to 22% in the same time period. Other states with high obesity rates included Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, Illinois and Kansas.

Overweight and obesity rose more significantly in girls than boys. The state of Texas had the highest percent of overweight girls – 20% of children. Wyoming had the lowest at 6%.

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The states with the biggest childhood obesity problems were also the states where the kids spent more time watching TV and less time being physically active. Other environmental factors, such as ease of access to parks and playgrounds and the availability of sidewalks and walking paths, accounted for about 40% of the state-by-state differences.

"During the past 3 decades, there has been a dramatic increase in childhood obesity in the United States," writes Dr. Singh. "The rate has more than tripled, and the current prevalence remains high among children across most age, sex, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic groups."

The authors suggest several policy initiatives that might help states reduce childhood overweight and obesity rates.

• Providing increased opportunities for physical activity by improving the existing trail/path system, sidewalks, and creating bike trails, playgrounds, and recreational facilities
• Increasing access to healthy foods in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods by encouraging the development of grocery stores and farmers' markets
• Launching educational or media campaigns that encourage parents to limit adolescents' television viewing and other recreation screen time
• Enhancing programmatic resources for surveillance, monitoring and prevention intervention research on obesity

The next National Survey of Children’s Health will be done in 2011. Singh hopes that the survey will show a stabilization of the trend. “Hopefully we have seen the worst,” he said.

SOURCE Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, online May 3, 2010

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Comments

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