Trimming Childhood Obesity in the U.S.

Imagine this scenario:

You are a single parent with two young children to support. Your last five dollar bill is in your pocket and pay day is tomorrow. There are two locations where you can purchase food in your neighborhood – a liquor store that sells packaged goods, and a Burger King. Your kids are hungry.

What would you do?

Many people placed in this situation would (and do) opt for the less expensive food options in their neighborhood, when forced to weigh availability and cost against nutrition. These, and many other factors, have amplified America’s obesity epidemic among low-income populations for decades. Currently, one in seven low-income preschool children is obese.

This week, there is reason to believe that the scenario may be shifting. On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published a report illustrating a broad decline in obesity rates among low-income children in 19 states and territories in the U.S.

Children eating a healthy meal of corn on the cob

CDC Director Thomas Freidan notes, “This is the first report to show many states with declining rates of obesity in our youngest children after literally decades of rising rates.”

The report credits three reasons for this shift:

  1. Updates to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) federal assistance program, which is now aligned more closely with recommended dietary guidelines
  2. A steady increase in breast-feeding
  3. Changes as a result of programs such as the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which tackle childhood obesity

There is reason to applaud these programs, practices and policies that are making an impact on the health of low-income youth in our country. However, even as we acknowledge the great work that is being done, it is necessary that we amplify our efforts to eliminate health disparities among low-income populations; with the goal that one day, no family will have to weigh the availability and cost of food against the value of a nutritious meal.

To learn more about the linkages between poverty and obesity, visit the Food Research and Action Center website, or visit the SPENT website to experience a simulation of the challenges that many low-income individuals experience every month.

This story was cross-posted on the Eyes Wide Open Blog.

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I have extensive experience coordinating communications and outreach initiatives focused on health and social issues. In my current position as Project Specialist, I provide communications technical assistance to regional and federal efforts within the National Partnership for Action initiative, with support from the Office of Minority Health. I am a former Peace Corps volunteer who worked on health and social affairs projects in the Federated States of Micronesia. Read more.