Obesity among toddlers from low-income families has been on the decline in recent years, according to new research from federal agencies.
However, the obesity prevalence of 14.5% for this group still significantly exceeds the national average.
“Continued initiatives to work with parents and other stakeholders to promote healthy pregnancies, breastfeeding, quality nutrition, and physical activity for young children in multiple settings are needed to ensure healthy child development,” according to the authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Agriculture.
They studied data on children age 2-4 years in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides low-income families with nutritious food, education on healthy eating and referrals for care.
The team detailed its findings in the report “Trends in Obesity Among Participants Aged 2-4 Years in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – United States, 2000-2014,” published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
It found the following prevalence of obesity:
- 14.5% in 2014,
- 15.9% in 2010,
- 15.5% in 2004, and
- 14% in 2000.
From 2010-’14, there were statistically significant declines in obesity rates among all five ethic groups in the study, including the two with the highest prevalence — American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic children.
Rates dropped significantly for 34 of the 56 WIC agencies in 2010-’14, which includes those in the states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories. Puerto Rico experienced the largest decline, going from 20.3% to 13.9%.
The authors credited the 2009 move to make WIC food packages more nutritious by aligning them with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Academy’s infant feeding guidelines as well as initiatives like Let’s Move.
Despite the improvements, obesity prevalence among low-income children still is high compared to the national average of 8.9% for a similar age group — 2- to 5-year-olds from 2011-’14.
“To reduce the high prevalence of early childhood obesity among low-income families, new and continued implementation of evidence-based measures are needed to support and educate pregnant women, ensure parents and families have the appropriate information about healthy behaviors, and encourage stakeholders across various settings and sectors to create supportive nutrition and physical activity environments,” authors wrote.