Iowa is among 19 states and territories with decreases in obesity among low-income 2 to 4-year-olds, according to the latest Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Iowa’s obesity rate among this group has fallen nearly one percent from 15.1 percent in 2008 to 14.4 percent in 2011.The entire report may be found at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/ChildhoodObesity/index.html.
“Although obesity clearly remains a challenge in Iowa, this report shows progress is being made,” said Iowa Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation, they’re turning in the right direction. Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of serious health problems for life.” Studies have shown children are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult if they are overweight or obese between the ages of 3 and 5 years.
Iowa has taken action to make healthy eating and active living part of both children’s and adult’s lives. Many of the IDPH-administered Community Transformation Grants (CTG) awarded to more than one-quarter of Iowa counties focus on healthy eating. The Siouxland District CTG program in Woodbury County, for example, has partnered with the City of Sioux City Parks and Recreation Department and local vendors to increase the availability of healthier food and beverage options at the city’s swimming pools and recreation center.
IDPH’s Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) encourages healthy food choices through nutrition education and the food packages with low fat milk, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.WIC also promotes breastfeeding for new mothers and infants. According to the Iowa Newborn Metabolic Screening Profile Feeding Report, Iowa counties continue to see a steady increase in the number of infants who are breastfed at birth. To see the Iowa Breastfeeding Incidence for 2007-2011 report, which gives breastfeeding rates by county for each of the five years indicated, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/wic/Breastfeeding.aspx. Studies have shown a link between exclusive breastfeeding during the first year of an infant’s life and a lower incidence of obesity.
In addition, IDPH participation in the Healthiest State Initiative encourages daily exercise, healthy food choices, and making wellness a part of Iowa’s culture. The annual Healthiest State Walk takes place October 9. For more information on the Healthiest State Initiative, visit www.iowahealthieststate.com.
Driving down obesity rates and building a healthier state takes collaboration and cooperation between business leaders, childcare providers, healthcare providers, communities, and families. Goals for improving child health include:
- Making it easier for families to buy healthy, affordable foods and beverages in their neighborhoods.Helping provide access to safe, free drinking water in places such as community parks, recreation areas, child care centers, and schools.
- Helping local schools open gyms, playgrounds, and sports fields during non-school hours so children can play safely after school, on weekends, and over the summer.
- Helping child care providers adopt best practices for improving nutrition and physical activity and for limiting computer and television time.
- Creating partnerships with civic leaders, child care providers, and others to make community changes that promote healthy eating and active living.
- Encouraging birthing hospitals, health care providers and employers to implement policies and practices that support breastfeeding mothers and families.
For more information about childhood obesity, visit www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood.