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Could the Childhood Obesity 'Epidemic' Be Ebbing?
Date:4/24/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- After two decades of steadily increasing rates of childhood obesity, at least one state may finally be turning things around.

The rates of obesity in children under the age of 6 in eastern Massachusetts declined during the period between 2004 and 2008, according to a new study.

The researchers also found that the rates of obesity declined more for children who were insured by non-Medicaid health plans.

"In this analysis, we found a substantial decline in obesity prevalence among young children during 2004 to 2008. However, the smaller decrease in obesity prevalence in Medicaid-insured children suggests that the coming years may see a widening of socioeconomic disparities in childhood obesity," wrote the study's authors.

Nutritionist Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y., commented on the new findings.

"This study shows some promise that we might be turning the tide on childhood obesity. What isn't clear is if this decline is from the things we're doing to prevent obesity [that] are causing the change they see," Copperman said.

Results of the study are to be published in the May issue of Pediatrics, but were released online April 23.

Between 1980 and 2001, there was a rapid increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity, according to background information in the study. However, most recent national studies have shown that childhood obesity may be leveling off, or in some cases, even on the decline.

Targeting obesity prevention efforts at the youngest children -- those under 6 years old -- may be the most effective, as children at that age are still predominantly influenced by their parents and what their parents eat, and their lifestyle habits are just developing and may be easier to change, according to the study.

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