Child obesity drops, but not everywhere

Child obesity experts say that this could be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. This is why this month’s reported drop in child obesity in Philadelphia is important, although recent drops do not represent a nation-wide trend. Reported in the New York Times today, the Philadelphia Inquirer says the study was released in September. The Inquirer’s Peter Rusha writes:

“The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a substantial piece about the news on Sept. 7, the day after the foundation published a Web page on Philadelphia, along with a video interview, crediting the original source, a lengthy article in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

“The rate of obese local public-school students dropped nearly 5 percent between 2006 and 2010, when national obesity rates remained unchanged after tripling since the mid-1970s,” wrote the Inquirer’s public health reporter, Don Sapatkin. Reported from Philadelphia, today’s Times piece does, however, go on to offer updated statistics, in addition to various quotes and anecdotes: ’New data from Philadelphia – from more than 20,000 children in first through sixth grades – show a further 2.5 percent obesity decline from 2011 to 2012,’ said Gary D. Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University.

“‘Writer Sabrina Tavernise also observes, “Some public health experts say that without broader policy actions like a soda tax, which Philadelphia tried but failed to pass in 2010 and 2011, deeper change will be difficult.’ Both the Inquirer and Times articles singled Philadelphia out for praise. ‘Philadelphia is a positive deviant, a crucial proof of the concept that communities can reduce obesity rates – and do so in a way that helps to close the disparities gap,’ physicians James S. Marks and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey wrote in a commentary quoted by the Inquirer.

“‘The Philadelphia School District, for example, was among the first to remove all sodas and drinks with extra sugar from vending machines, in 2004. Districtwide snack standards were developed in 2006; in 2009-10, the district began offering free breakfasts to all students, discontinued the use of fryers, and switched from milk with 2 percent fat to 1 percent,’ Sapatakin wrote.’”


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