MN child obesity rate inching down; it's less than half the grownup rate

Obesity among 2 to 4-year-olds enrolled in a nutrition program went down slightly

Some of the smallest Minnesotans have been getting a little smaller over the last few years – and that's a good thing.

The state's Department of Health said this week a study of obesity in young children from low-income families showed the rate nudged down a little.

The findings

Specifically, two federal agencies – the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Agriculture – compared kids 2 to 4 years old from families enrolled in the WIC program in 2010 and in 2014.

In Minnesota the obesity rate went from 12.7 percent down to 12.3.

Not a huge drop, but here are some other numbers for comparison. That's the eighth lowest obesity rate among the states. The national average was 14.5 percent (down from nearly 16 percent in 2010).

What's more, a study last year found the obesity rate among adults in Minnesota is 26.1 percent.

How do we reduce obesity childhood obesity?

In announcing the results this week Minnesota's health commissioner, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, mentioned three keys to reducing childhood obesity:

  • healthy eating
  • more exercise
  • breastfeeding babies

The Health Department says research shows babies who are breastfed are less likely to become obese.

Better eating, activity, and breastfeeding are also priorities for the WIC program. The letters stand for Women, Infants, and Children. It helps pregnant women, new mothers, and young kids in poor famlies learn about nutrition. The Health Department says it serves about one-third of Minnesota children in the 2 to 4 age group.

State officials point to the recent opening of a drop-in breastfeeding group in Buffalo, Minnesota, and a nutrition program in Staples called Choose Health as examples of progress in the fight against childhood obesity.

It's a worldwide problem

The World Health Organization, part of the United Nations, has a "Commission to End Childhood Obesity."

But there's no end in sight. They said this week there are more than 41 million children younger than five who are overweight. The commission came out with its own recommendations, which are topped by healthy eating, physical activity, and better health care during pregnancy.

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