Obesity rates for some children nearly halved since 2003, CDC study shows

By Steven Ross Johnson 


A glimmer of hope in the fight against childhood obesityemerged Tuesday with the release of a new government study.

The obesity rate for children between ages 2 and 5 fell to 8% in 2012 from 14% in 2003, according to the study from theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the improvement within that specific age group, the study, published online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no significant change in the rate of obesity among American adults and youth overall. Approximately 35% of adults ages 20 and over were obese in 2012 with a body mass index at or above 30, which represented a 3 percentage point increase from the obesity rate in 2003 when it was at 32%, but a 1 percentage point decrease from the rate in 2009. A similar trend was found among young people between the ages of 2 and 19 years old, where 16.9% were found to be obese in 2012; a figure that has remained relatively unchanged compared with the rate in 2003.

“Although overall we didn’t see any signs of significant change of obesity in youth and adults, there was some good news in that we saw a decrease within young children,” said study author Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “This is the first time since we’ve been tracking obesity that we’ve seen a decrease in any (age) group, so I think there’s a small glimmer of hope there, but we still have a long way to go.”

The study did not provide a reason for the decline. The cause was most likely the result of a comprehensive set of efforts geared toward reducing the obesity rate among young children, according to Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“I think these comprehensive approaches that provide healthier environments where kids live and learn are the ones that seem to be most promising,” Lavizzo-Mourey said.

Increases in the promotion of healthier eating and more physical activity also have played a role, Lavizzo-Mourey noted.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden in a written statement. “This confirms that, at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic.”

Today’s figures come on the heels of a CDC study released last year that found that from 2008 to 2011, the obesity rate decreased slightly among low-income children between the ages of 2 and 4 years old in 19 states.

The findings drew praise from first lady Michelle Obama, who on Tuesday announced the Obama administration would propose new guidelines for school wellness policies that include prohibiting promotion of unhealthy food and beverages at public schools, and require parents and community member to get involved in those policies. Childhood obesity has been Mrs. Obama’s signature issue for the past several years. She began developing her “Let’s Move!” campaign in 2010.

“I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans,” Mrs. Obama said in a written statement. “With the participation of kids, parents and communities in ‘Let’s Move!’ these last four years, healthier habits are beginning to become the new norm.”

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHSjohnson


Kaiser poll: Americans divided, uninformed on Obamacare

By Paul Demko


Posted: February 26, 2014 – 12:01 am ET

Tags: Barack ObamaHealthcare ReformInsurance ExchangesInsuranceKaiser Family Foundation


Just over half of Americans would prefer to pay more for a health plan that covers a broad network of doctors and hospitals, while 37% would prefer a cheaper plan offering a narrower network, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But the picture is very different for individuals who currently lack health coverage or who purchase coverage on the individual market, which are the groups most expected to shop for health plans through the Obamacare insurance exchanges. Of those respondents, 54% said they preferred a cheaper, narrower network, while just 35% opted for a more expensive plan with a broader provider network.

The issue of narrow networks and whether they’re a reasonable tradeoff for lower premiums has proved contentious in the implementation stage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Moves by insurers to tighten their networks have sparked lawsuits from doctors in New York and Connecticut, and prompted legislative proposals in many states.

The Kaiser poll also found that the federal healthcare law remains broadly unpopular. Nearly half of respondents indicated that they hold an unfavorable opinion of the law, while just 35% expressed a favorable view of it. Less than one-fifth of those surveyed indicated that they had personally benefited from the ACA.

Those numbers are largely unchanged in recent months. Since Kaiser began its monthly tracking poll in April 2010, support for President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment has reached the 50% threshold only once.

Still, 56% of the Kaiser respondents in the most recent survey said they believe the law should remain in place. By contrast, less than a third said they want it to be repealed.

Americans remain largely ignorant of the legislation’s most significant provisions, according to the survey. Over half of respondents indicated that they had little or no knowledge of the state and federal exchanges established under the law. In addition, less than a quarter of respondents were aware that the deadline for individuals to acquire coverage, or potentially incur a fine, is the end of March.

The Kaiser poll surveyed 1,501 adults nationwide between Feb. 11 and 17. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko