The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported measurable declines in the rate of obesity in some of America’s children. In Philadelphia, New York City, California and Mississippi major efforts have been underway since the late 90’s to reduce the obesity rate among school-aged children. Children often consume the largest portion of their daily calories at school. Philadelphia and New York City took measures to connect farms with schools to provide fresh produce and created new nutritional standards for meals and beverages to be served. Mississippi and California improved nutrition standards state-wide and California has banned sugar sweetened beverages in high schools.
This new data is some of the first to demonstrate that these measures are effective in reducing childhood obesity. This is great news and hopefully it will encourage other cities and states to take measures to protect the health of children. While this advance is heartening, it does not suggest that our country’s problems with obesity are solved. These modest decreases have come over a significant time span (the initial measurements were made 5-6 years ago). These cities and states have been working for 10-15 years to implement these obesity reduction measures.
Also, these promising decreases tend to be in populations that are at a lower risk to begin with. There are still strong racial and socioeconomic disparities in obesity levels. Some programs, like those in Philadelphia have been successful in eliminating those disparities, however, most programs to date have not. There are still counties in California where the obesity rate has increased over the same time period.
I’m excited that these programs now have the data they need to justify funding these vital measures to reduce the obesity rate in America. Now we need to expand these changes to all states and begin to unravel how best to eliminate the disparities between races and socioeconomic groups.