ATLANTA, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- U.S. obesity remains epidemic, but the tide has begun to turn for children in 18 states, with only three states showing weight increases, officials say.
A Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found after decades of rising rates, obesity among low-income preschoolers declined slightly in 19 states and U.S. territories from 2008 through 2011. Studies last year showed that places such as New York City and state of Mississippi found a drop in child obesity, but this study indicated a larger trend nationwide.
"While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction," Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a statement. "Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of serious health problems for life."
The study also found Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw at least a 1 percentage point decrease in their rate of obesity, while 20 states and Puerto Rico held steady at their current rate. Obesity rates increased slightly in three states.
"Today's announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life," said first lady Michelle Obama, who has promoted healthy eating and physical activity since arriving in the White House in 2009. "We know how essential it is to set our youngest children on a path towards a lifetime of healthy eating and physical activity, and more than 10,000 childcare programs participating in the Let's Move! Child Care initiative are doing vitally important work on this front."
CDC researchers analyzed weight and height data for nearly 12 million children age 2-4, who participated in federally funded maternal- and child-nutrition programs.
Forty states and the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were included in the report. The data came from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System.