Oregon has the nation’s lowest rate of obese children, according to a new government study, which found big gaps between regions and ballooning obesity rates in many states from 2003 to 2007.
More than 16 percent of American children ages 10 to 17 were not just overweight, but obese, in 2007. That’s a 10 percent rise from 2003. Mississippi topped the nation, with more than a fifth of its young people obese, according to “Changes in State-Specific Childhood Obesity and Overweight Prevalence in the United States From 2003 to 2007.” The report was produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and was published in this month’s Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Oregon was the star, with the lowest rate of obesity—defined as a body-mass index in the 95th percentile or above—at just under 10 percent. And Oregon was the only state where childhood obesity fell significantly from 2003 to 2007.
Black and Hispanic young people in the study were twice as likely as whites to be overweight or obese, even when the researchers took into account other risk factors such as inactivity and poverty. Oregon is 90 percent white. It also has a high rate of breast-feeding, and some research suggests that practice protects against obesity.
Figures for the analysis came from a representative telephone survey of parents. Data for about 47,000 children were analyzed for 2003, and about 44,000 children for 2007. The findings are said to be less accurate than a separate government survey that weighs and measures children. Data from that survey suggest childhood-obesity rates nationwide may be starting to stabilize.
A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2010 edition of Education Week as Study: Oregon Posts Lowest Rate of Childhood Obesity