State health officials are crowing over a new federal report that shows the obesity rate in one area of Iowa’s population is falling. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the obesity rate for low-income two-to-four-year-olds in Iowa dropped from 15.1-percent to 14.4-percent between 2008 and 2011.
Jill Lange, director of the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, says it’s a drop of less than one-percent, but it’s a good start.
“We consider it a big deal because it’s actually going down,” Lange says. “We’ve spent so many years with the trends going up that just even this small decline is very great news for us and lets us know we’ve finally maybe turned that corner and are making some improvements in the obesity rate.”
Lange could not attribute the drop in the obesity rate to any one program, as she says there are a variety of efforts underway to get Iowans to exercise and eat healthier. As for the WIC program, she says some changes were implemented in 2009.
“We made changes which included fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and also providing low-fat and fat-free milk to the participants,” Lange says. “This is something that was totally different than what had been happening before.”
Kayla Shipley, a registered dietitian, is the executive officer of the health promotion unit at the Iowa Department of Public Health. Shipley says they’ve awarded grants to more than one-quarter of Iowa’s counties to focus on healthy eating.
“Twenty-five of our Iowa counties are implementing Community Transformation Grant strategies to increase the availability of healthy food options,” Shipley says. “We’re starting to see more locations with healthier food options in concession stands, in movie theatres, more access to farmers markets.”
Studies show children are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult if they are overweight or obese between the ages of three and five years. The CDC report shows Iowa is among 19 states with drops in obesity rates among that select group of children.