The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some welcome news this week. Between 2008 and 2011, obesity rates declined among poor pre-school students in 19 states and U.S. territories.
Challenges remain. About one in six Hispanic preschool children and one in five black children between ages two and five are obese, according to the CDC. This compares with one in eight of all preschoolers.
California, the state with the largest Latino population, was one of the states that experienced a decline. The state’s obesity rate dropped from 17.3 percent to 16.8 percent. According to the Los Angeles Times, the FIrst 5 LA program has invested several million dollars on parks to combat the problem. Florida, New Mexico and New York also saw declines.
“We’ve seen isolated reports in the past that have had encouraging trends, but this is the first report to show many states with declining rates of obesity in our youngest children after literally decades of rising rates,” the CDC’s director, Tom Frieden, said, according to the Times. “But the fight is far from over.”
As always there are caveats. Texas, which has a student population that is majority Hispanic and low income, was not included in the study. Colorado, which also has a sizable Latino population, experienced an increase in its obesity rate. Other states saw no change, including Nevada, Arizona and Illinois.
The CDC suggested that schools help combat the obesity rate by opening their athletic facilities and playgrounds when school is not in session so children have safe places in which to play and exercise.