A few years ago, when a study came out with the findings that obesity in 2- to 5-year-olds was on the decline, public health officials—and even parents—thought we were on to something. Maybe the childhood obesity crisis could be reversed.
But those results may have been a blip, weren't long-lasting or didn't tell the entire story. A new study published in the journal Obesity found that obesity rates not only haven't reversed for slightly older kids, but they're still, frustratingly, on the rise.
Researchers and the new study's authors, who are out of Duke University, University of North Carolina and Wake-Forest University could not produce results where the previous decline was evident in either girls or boys. There are currently 4.5 million children and adolescents in the U.S. who are now considered not only overweight and obese but severely obese.
But instead of harping in the child or the child's parent, Skinner says it's a bigger issue and a fight parents should not feel alone in.
Though the Obesity study didn't conclude what was causing the rise in obesity, it did report populations where rates were particularly high. The rate of obesity among Latino girls is now greater than that of African American girls, with nearly half of those in the obese category ranking as severely obese.
White and African American boys were nearly equally likely to be obese, but the latter had higher rates of severe obesity. A quarter of Latino boys were also obese. They and African American boys were far more likely than obese white boys to have severe obesity.
Researchers continue to look for solutions to the obesity crisis, particularly for kids who are also being diagnosed with diabetes, undergoing bariatric surgeries and developing weight-related issues once seen only in adults at higher rates and younger ages. But just this week, a New York Times feature on the long-term futility of reduced-calorie eating plans, which result in the body resetting its metabolic rate and making weight gain easier, does not bode well for current efforts to get kids to lose weight.
Childhood obesity expert and lead author Asheley Cockrell Skinner called the findings “most disheartening." But instead of harping in the child or the child's parent, Skinner says it's a bigger issue and a fight parents should not feel alone in.
"This is really a population health problem that will require changes across the board—food policy, access to healthcare, school curriculums that include physical education, community and local resources in parks and sidewalks," Skinner said. "A lot of things put together can work.”