Nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese. But after decades of rising rates, we may be turning a corner on the health crisis. Experts across fields gathered at Washington Post Live’s 2013 Childhood Obesity Summit to discuss strategies resulting in healthier children.
Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
After decades of nothing but bad news, we’re finally seeing some progress. The trend of rising childhood obesity has finally leveled off, and in some places and among some groups, it’s doing more than just holding the line.
Among the first places to adopt comprehensive approaches, we’re actually seeing downturns. New York City, for example, expanded their access to fresh fruits and vegetables, opened new parks and showed how we can teach residents to fix nutritious meals. And their childhood obesity rates are down 5.5 percent.
West Virginia focused on schools, improving the lunch standards and other nutrition standards, revving up opportunities for kids to be active in physical education classes, after school, before school, even in the classroom. And their childhood obesity rates are down 8.6 percent.
Childhood obesity rates are down in Philadelphia, too: 4.7 percent. And Philadelphia holds the honor of being one of the few places where the rates are falling in communities of color. Rates among African American boys and Latino girls have fallen disproportionately to others.
Based on research, we can say that there are probably six strategies that work really well to produce a long-lasting impact in reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity:
Improving the quality of snack foods and beverages in schools; increasing access to parks, playgrounds, walking paths, and bike lanes; increasing access to healthy foods in communities; helping schools and youth-serving organizations increase the activity that kids have; reducing the consumption of sugary beverages; and protecting our children from the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages.