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

hat was happening to childhood obesity rates for this youngest age group, the researchers reviewed data on more than 300,000 children who were seen for well-child visits between 1980 and 2008 at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a multi-site pediatric practice in Eastern Massachusetts. The current analysis includes data on 36,827 youngsters who visited their physicians between 1999 and 2008.

Over time, the racial make-up of the study sample changed somewhat. In 1999-2000, nearly 64 percent of the group was non-Hispanic white. By 2007-2008, that number was about 58 percent. The number of black children at the start of the study was roughly 18 percent compared with 13.5 percent at the end of the study. The number of Asian- American children increased during the study from nearly 6 percent to nearly 13 percent.

During the period between 1999 and 2003, the researchers found that the rates of obesity remained relatively stable among the children. However, between 2004 and 2008, the rate of obesity in boys went from 10.5 percent to about 9 percent. In girls, it went from 9 percent to about 6 percent, according to the study.

In both boys and girls, the decline in obesity was more significant for children who were insured by health plans other than Medicaid, the study reported.

The researchers said they don't know exactly what caused this drop, but suspect that reduced maternal smoking during pregnancy, increased rates of breast-feeding, more limited television advertising of sweet foods to young children, and increased screening and counseling for childhood obesity may have all played a role.

"I think this study is great news. It's great that the rate is going down overall, but I haven't noticed a decrease in younger children here, where most of the children are on Medicaid," said pediatric nutritionist Lauren Graf at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"When families are struggling financially, it's hard to focus on heal
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