Background: The prevalence of obesity among U.S. preschoolers has doubled in recent decades. Childhood obesity increases the risk for adult obesity and is associated with negative health consequences. Trends in the state-specific prevalence of obesity among low-income U.S. preschool children have not been examined since 2008. State-specific obesity prevalence surveillance helps determine the need for and impact of state and local obesity prevention strategies.
Methods: Measured weight and height data from approximately 11.6 million low-income children aged 2-4 years from 40 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories who participated in the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System during 2008-2011 were used to estimate state obesity prevalence. Obesity was defined as having an age- and sex-specific body mass index ≥95th percentile, according to the 2000 CDC growth charts. Logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, and race/ethnicity were used to examine trends in the state-specific obesity prevalence.
Results: During 2008-2011, statistically significant downward trends in obesity prevalence were observed in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, South Dakota, and the U.S. Virgin Islands had the largest absolute decreases in obesity prevalence, each with a decrease of ≥1 percentage point. Twenty states and Puerto Rico experienced no significant change, and obesity prevalence increased significantly in three states. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC HEALTH PRACTICE: Small but significant declines in obesity among low-income preschoolers were observed in 19 of 43 states/territories examined. Continued prevention efforts are needed to sustain and expand the implementation and evaluation of population-level interventions to prevent childhood obesity.