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Health authorities are saying that over the past decade the obesity rate from children between the ages of 2 and 5 has dropped from 14 percent to eight percent, a 43 percent drop.

The trend, the New York Times writes, was a "welcome surprise" to researchers, and is seen as something that could have an impact on long-term health issues and costs, since childhood obesity can lead to weight problems that cause cancer, heart disease and stroke. It is, the Times writes, "the first clear evidence that America’s youngest children have turned a corner in the obesity epidemic."

Cynthia Ogden, a researcher for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and author of the study, "cautioned that these very young children make up a tiny fraction of the American population and that the figures for the broader society had remained flat, and that for women over 60, the obesity rate had even increased. Still, the lower obesity rates in the very young bode well for the future, she said."

Experts tell the Times that there likely are several reasons for the trend, including a decline in the sugary beverages consumed by children, as well as the high-profile public relations efforts that have been conducted - including the current initiatives being championed by First Lady Michelle Obama - on the diet-and-exercise front. The story says that calorie consumption for boys has dropped seven percent over the period studied, and for girls it has dropped four percent.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Journal reports this morning that "logos for sugary soda and unhealthy snack foods would no longer appear inside schools under proposed nutrition rules released Tuesday by the Obama administration … The rules, from the Agriculture Department, apply to foods sold in school vending machines, school stores and the alternative meals and snacks offered in the cafeteria."

According to the story, "The proposal, part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, is the latest piece of first lady Michelle Obama's campaign to reduce childhood obesity. Last summer, the administration restricted the amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar allowed in school snack foods, and required that they contain a certain portion of healthy ingredients starting next school year.

"Now, the administration is effectively trying to remove from schools any marketing of foods that don't meet those guidelines. For example, schools may still have a cooler in the gym with a soda logo, or a vending machine plastered with salty snack graphics. Those would be phased out under the proposal."
KC's View:
First of all, while there is still a long way to go in addressing the nation's obesity crisis, it can fairly be said that the country is making progress. That's a good thing.

I'm sure there will be folks out there who will think that the federal government is exceeding its authority with its approach to marketing of certain foods in schools. But it strikes me that this is intelligent public policy. People can eat what they want at home, and can feed their kids what they want. But public institutions like schools ought not be in the business of making money - and let's face it, in the end this is all about making money - by encouraging less than optimal dietary habits in kids.

We ought to be teaching kids about how to eat smart, and we ought to be creating an environment where the foods available to them for purchase are as healthy as possible.