From action comes change. Together, we can take steps toward healthier foods and safe spaces for exercise and play.
Over the past four decades, obesity rates rose steadily among all age groups, increasing more than four times among children ages 6 to 11. Today, more than 23 million young people in the United States are either overweight or obese. Rates also increased disproportionately among those most vulnerable including African-American, Latino, American Indian, rural, and low-income children and teens. These health disparities show that where we live matters and too many families still lack access to affordable, nutritious foods and safe opportunities to be active.
But we’re beginning to see some signs of progress among both children and adults. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Report from January 2014 shows that obesity rates have dropped among preschool children from low-income families in many states. In addition, California, Mississippi, New Mexico, and West Virginia have reported statewide declines in childhood obesity rates and several cities from Philadelphia to Anchorage, Alaska, have seen declines as a result of comprehensive changes to improve access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity.
Despite these positive signs, we’re far from the finish line when it comes to reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. However, what we’ve learned from these success stories is that cities and states that make strong, far-reaching changes to create a culture of health can achieve success. And we must strive to ensure that these positive changes reach the communities that need it the most, including rural, low-income and people of color. That is why Leadership for Healthy Communities is working with local and state government leaders and school officials nationwide to make the connection between their policy decisions and the health of their constituents and support them in their efforts to create healthier cities, counties, states, tribal lands and schools.