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Early Childhood Obesity Declining in L.A. County

January 28, 2013
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A study of early childhood obesity in Los Angeles County shows a positive trend of fewer low-income preschool-aged children being obese. This finding was part of a report released Jan. 17 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which analyzed obesity trends in L.A. County and New York City. First 5 LA provided funding for the L.A. County analysis.

"This is a landmark study that documents for the first time a sustained decrease in obesity in early childhood in New York City and the beginnings of a similar trend in L.A. County," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, a First 5 LA Commissioner, as well as health officer and director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

"The findings suggest that we can impact the obesity epidemic in early childhood with the right interventions and investments. The focus on early childhood is critically important as it helps lay the foundation for healthy behaviors that can reduce obesity risk and promote health over the course of a lifetime."

The study authors compared prevalence rates of early childhood obesity in New York City and L.A. County, documenting differing trends in the two most populous regions of the U.S. In New York City, obesity prevalence rates of preschool-aged children reached a peak in 2003 and have declined every year since. By comparison, obesity rates increased in L.A. County through 2008 before leveling off and beginning to decline.

"We have been tracking early childhood obesity prevalence in L.A. County for the last 10 years and have been very concerned about the steady increases we were documenting," said Shannon E. Whaley, co-author of the study, who is director of research and evaluation with Public Health Foundation Enterprises, Inc., and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program. "The leveling and downward trend that has emerged in the last three years is very encouraging."

While the report does not address the reasons behind this turnaround, the authors are hopeful that the findings will encourage researchers, policy makers and the public health community to carefully examine investments and policy strategies that contribute to reductions in early childhood obesity.

Children in the study were participants in the WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program. More than two-thirds of all infants born in L.A. County and more than half of all preschool-aged children in the county are served by WIC.

To read the study click here.


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