After decades of rising childhood obesity rates, several American cities are reporting their first declines.
The trend has emerged in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as smaller places like Anchorage, Alaska, and Kearney, Neb. The state of Mississippi has also registered a drop, but only among white students.
“It’s been nothing but bad news for 30 years, so the fact that we have any good news is a big story,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner in New York City, which reported a 5.5 percent decline in the number of obese schoolchildren from 2007 to 2011.
The drops are small, just 5 percent here in Philadelphia and 3 percent in Los Angeles. But experts say they are significant because they offer the first indication that the obesity epidemic, one of the nation’s most intractable health problems, may actually be reversing course.
Crucial to get kids less fat, because fat kids are almost totally doomed to be fat adults, burdened by all manner of lifetime medical ailments. Our obesity epidemic began with kids and it will end with kids.
Especially tough since so many kids eat majority of their weekday food at school (breakfasts + lunch + snacks). Health advocates have to fight food and beverages industry on this. Good example: big push to get sodas out of schools and Coca-Cola and others fire back with "energy drinks" that are just as sugary. Sugary drinks are believed to account for half of the obesity epidemic.
Then there are those cheap-skate Republicans in Congress who insist on labeling pizza a "vegetable," while insisting on more tests and thus less phys ed. I can tell you that Indiana is nuts on that score (testing): my kids are forced to prep and take these mindless (and useless) tests ALL YEAR LONG. What a way to prep kids for the 21st century!
But I digress ...
Researchers are trying to figure out what's working. All they know is this: "declines occurred in cities that have had obesity reduction policies in place for a number of years."
Though obesity is now part of the national conversation, with aggressive advertising campaigns in major cities and a push by Michelle Obama, many scientists doubt that anti-obesity programs actually work.
Exercising is required, but it never does it alone (and never will). Key is reducing all those empty calories and portion sizes ("Want some fries with your pizza and Gatorade?").
What we eat in America is what is most profitable for US food companies and ag corps to sell - plain and simple. We subsidize grains big time and do virtually nothing for fruits and vegetables.
We've got a nanny state alright, and she's telling us that fat is good.
I admire Michelle Obama for working this issue. Exactly the right focus for her right now. Because when we solve the tripling of obesity that's unfolded over the past three decades (stunning, really), we solve a good deal of our healthcare crisis.