The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

March 2, 2014

Our View: Who's to blame for obesity? We are

Why it matters: War on obesity will not be won unless we take ownership of our own behavior, and stop blaming others

A new study is being touted as a positive signal that the national scourge of childhood obesity is in decline. Really?

The newly released government study by the Center of Disease Control suggests that obesity in children ages 2-5 dropped from 14 percent to 8 percent in 10 years. That’s nearly a 43 percent decline. That’s unbelievable. Really.

Immediately after the findings were announced, public health advocates as well as first lady Michelle Obama were celebrating, calling the latest news “exciting.” The “Let’s Move” campaign touting more exercise and focusing on nutrition has been a hallmark of the first lady.

Hold on. Let’s tamp down that enthusiasm for a minute and take a closer look at the numbers. This “decline” came only in pre-schoolers and not older children. Even the lead author in the study said these very young children make up a sliver of the American population and that the figures for the vast population have remained flat and even increased for women over 60.

That didn’t stop some people from providing their explanations on why the tide has turned on childhood obesity. They cited all the changes made in nutrition. Really? Well, of course, there’s not much more one can do to get toddlers to increase their exercise. Some moms may want a little less exercise.

But some experts are skeptical of the improvement for toddlers not knowing if these are permanent figures or just a random variation. The preschooler obesity numbers fell from 14 percent in 2003-2004 to 10 percent in 2007-2008, then jumped to 12 in 2009-2010, then slipped to 8 in the most recent survey. These yo-yo results seem suspicious.

And then there’s the wonderment of why preschoolers would be the ones leading the trend. After all, the anti-obesity campaigns targeted older children by attacking vending machines in schools and sugary drinks. That segment of the population saw little improvement.

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