Obesity Rate Remains at 15 Percent

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EUGENE, Ore. — A new national study found obesity rates have recently declined among low income preschoolers in about half the US, but Oregon isn’t part of the trend.

Researchers analyzed the weights and heights of 12 million children ages two to four, from 2008 to 2011. Several western states including California and Washington saw obesity rates fall, but not Oregon.

After a long battle to curb childhood obesity, the tide may finally be turning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported obesity rates among preschoolers from low income families have fallen slightly in 19 states and U.S. territories.

“Oregon hasn’t seen the same kind of decrease and in Lane County we know 25 percent of our high school kids are obese and roughly the same amount of our 8th graders are obese,” said Jason Davis, Lane County Public Health Department Spokesman.

The state’s obesity rate stayed at 15 percent, which is higher than the national average. Experts say it’s because healthy options and activities are out of reach.

“We are a state with a lot of isolated towns and trying to have access to good physical fitness. Having access to fresh and vegetable stands in larger cities that’s accessible, but we have a lot of little rural cities,” said dietician Katey Bosworth.

Only 18 percent of 11th graders in the state ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables and 21 percent of 8th graders drank seven or more soft drinks in the past week.

“Locally, we still have problem that people don’t have access to healthy easy quick food. In Lane County 50 percent of our restaurants here eat fast food,” Davis said.

The national study’s hopeful news for Oregon. The obesity rate has moved in the right direction for the first time in a generation and the Lane County Public Health Department works to join the trend.

“We’re working with Dari-Mart to actually provide healthier options in some of the locations. We’re working on pieces of legislation on making vending machines healthier,” Davis said.

Experts attribute the decline to the recent dietary changes to the WIC program, an increase in breastfeeding and a greater public awareness of health and physical fitness programs.

Photo Courtesy of Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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