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Finally, some good news about childhood obesity!

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  February 27, 2014 07:57 AM

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preschoolers.jpgI am so happy.

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity in children between the ages of 2 and 5 dropped from 14 percent to 8 percent in the past 8 years. That's a drop of 43 percent.

I really needed some good news.

Okay, some experts caution against getting too excited, that the numbers in this age group were not all that big, so statistically it's hard to be sure they mean anything. 

I don't care. I really need some hope.

The news in the rest of the report wasn't so great. Obesity is up in older women, and pretty much unchanged in other age groups. That's the thing: as a pediatrician, I have felt like I am getting nowhere when it comes to childhood obesity. It's just really hard to change habits, let alone make healthy food and safe exercise spaces available to everyone. And then there are all the political aspects of it (like grain subsidies) and financial ones as well (McDonald's likes making money). It's easy to feel defeated.

But this report tells me that victory is possible. I think it means people are listening.

It's so great that we are seeing the change in this age group--because obesity starts early. Being overweight when you start kindergarten makes it much more likely you'll be overweight in middle school...which makes it more likely you'll be overweight as a teen and an adult. This is exactly the age group we need to put our efforts into. 

It's when kids are young that we can still convince them that fruits and vegetables can be delicious, that water is just as good as juice and that active play is way better than video games. This is the time when they still really listen to their parents. This is the time to build habits that last a lifetime. 

Who knows what will happen to these kids over the next few years--and who knows what the next report will show. But right now, I'm not going to worry about that.

Right now, I'm just happy.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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