THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- In what might serve as a hopeful sign for all children in the United States, a new study finds that obesity rates among New York City's school children have dropped slightly in the past five years, particularly among the youngest.
Although the absolute decline in the obesity rate is only 1.2 percent, it's still the largest drop seen yet in any major U.S. city, the researchers noted, and many of the programs that New York City health and education officials implemented to combat rising childhood obesity rates are being tried in other parts of the country.
"This is really good news, but there are still one in five children in grades K-8 who are obese, which is still a huge number of children," said study author Magdalena Berger, a city research scientist in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "We are on the right track, but we still have a very long way to go."
Obesity among children has been increasing since the 1970s, Berger said. "In the last decade, nationally, we have seen a leveling off of obesity, but this is the first well-documented decline in obesity among children that we have seen."
The drop in obesity is statistically significant, because of the large number of children in New York City's public schools, Berger said. "Whether or not it's actually meaningful is another question," she added.
"I think it's meaningful in the sense that it's not going up, and that's good news, it's not staying stable, and that's good news," Berger said. "I would characterize this as a slow sustained drop over five years; it's not a dramatic drop."
Although the reasons for the decline in obesity among these school children isn't clear, Berger speculated that policies implemented by the New York City departments of health and education, along with more public awareness of the problem, may have played a role.
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