Childhood Obesity Rate Levels Off


WASHINGTON, DC -- The childhood obesity rate is leveling off, according to researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the rates are still high, with 16 percent of children classified as obese and 32 percent classified as overweight.

From 1999 to 2006, the increase in the obesity rate for children 2 years old to 19 years old was statistically insignificant, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association written by Cynthia Ogden of the CDC. From 1980 to 1999, the childhood obesity rate had tripled.

Researchers compared height and weight measurements from government surveys of children taken from 2003 to 2006 to calculate body mass index. They then compared those numbers to data from 1999, finding that the rates did not change in any statistically significant manner.

In November, the CDC announced that between 2003 and 2006, no significant increase occurred in obesity rates for adults. More than one-third of U.S. adults (more than 72 million people) were obese in 2005-2006. This includes 33.3 percent of men and 35.3 percent of women. The figures show no statistically significant change from 2003-2004, when 31.1 percent of men were obese and 33.2 percent of women were obese, the CDC says.

Still, the CDC report did not show a decrease in childhood obesity. A symposium at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine this week addressed effective approaches to childhood obesity, how to improve the effectiveness of preventative interventions, and the application of effective strategies to a public health approach.

Bryan K. Smith, Ph. D., who chaired the symposium, said that the most promising interventions seem to be those that are multidisciplinary because these approaches promote increasing physical activity, discourage sedentary behaviors and encourage healthy eating choices. He suggested that schools are an ideal location to offer interventions since they provide structured environments and all children must attend school. However, time constraints, funding issues and practical issues (such as transportation home) are all issues that schools must deal with to be a medium for these programs, he said.

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