Study finds childhood obesity is occurring at a higher, more severe rate


In recent years, childhood obesity has become more common and severe than it was a decade ago despite public health efforts to prevent it, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, was led by Solveig Cunningham, PhD, associate professor in global health at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. In recent years, United Statespublic health efforts have attempted to squash childhood obesity through improving living environments and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, according to the study. For their investigation, Cunningham and her team of researchers sought to compare rates of childhood obesity across recent cohorts and understand the effectiveness of these efforts.

Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies, researchers compared incidence of obesity rates between a group of children entering kindergarten in 1998 and in 2010 and followed them until they reached fifth grade.

The study found that approximately 40 percent of children from the more recent cohort were categorized as overweight or obese. The results also showed that children entering kindergarten in 2010 experienced higher rates of obesity than those born in the 1990s, despite public health campaigns to mitigate rates of obesity. In addition, findings showed that compared to the non-Black Hispanic children studied 12 years prior, non-Black Hispanic children in the more recent cohort had a 29 percent higher incidence of developing obesity. Finally, the study indicated that among the most economically disadvantaged groups, the risk of obesity increased by 15 percent in the more recent cohort.

“These worrying data indicate that the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States continues to grow and get more serious,” said Kabayam Venkat Narayan, MD, executive director of the Emory Global Diabetes Researcher Center and one of the study’s senior authors in a statement. “Our knowledge about effective interventions to fight this also seems limited. We urgently need an aggressive national strategy for interdisciplinary research and public health to stem the tide of childhood obesity and its consequences in the U.S. and worldwide.”