Over the past decade, the percentage of kids ages 2-5 who are obese has dropped a staggering 43 percent nationwide, according to a new federal report.
However, according to Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, childhood obesity remains a big problem in the Commonwealth. She pointed to underlying data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that finds no change in the obesity rates.
Zepeda said a lot of good things are being done in Kentucky to address the problem.
"Preschool is obviously a great place to reach children, but these data also suggest that we need to look at what's happening in our communities. We need to look at the awareness families have about the importance of early nutrition," Zepeda said.
Health experts have said a young child's high weight is an early warning signal that he or she will be at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer later in life.
The good news from the national report is that children are consuming fewer calories from sugary drinks and that caloric intake, overall, is down. Allison Tse, Perry County wellness coordinator, said with schoolkids ages 5-18, the focus is on three things: Nutrition, physical activity and tobacco use.
While the news is good nationwide for the country's youngest children, the federal report noted that one out of every three adults and nearly one in five youths in the U.S. (17 percent) are still obese. Those rates have remained stable in recent years.
In the Bluegrass State, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has launched a new initiative, Investing in Kentucky's Future, aimed at helping today's school-age kids grow up more healthy than their parents.
Zepeda said the foundation has made a five-year investment in seven communities that have active health coalitions, "bringing together not just the usual suspects, but other folks who care about the health and prosperity of their communities to bend the curve on key health issues for children."
Another sign the bandwagon against childhood obesity is picking up steam is the governor's recent rollout of Kentucky Health Now. It lists seven goals to improve the health and wellness of Kentuckians, and obesity is on the list.