Two recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reports from a number of states and municipalities suggest that we are making progress in the control of the obesity epidemic, particularly with respect to younger children. The 2 national surveys that have provided the most valid and reliable data are the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS).
NHANES has been conducted annually since 1999, and when data from each 2-year cycle are combined, NHANES provides a representative sample of the US population. A total sample of >3300 2- to 19-year-old children and adolescents were included in NHANES in 2011–2012; 871 of these children were 2 to 5 years old. The most recent NHANES report1 described a statistically significant absolute decrease of 5.5% in the prevalence of obesity among 2- to 5-year-olds between 2003–2004 and 2011–2012.
Inspection of prevalence rates over time show that after a consistent increase which began after 1980, the prevalence of obesity in 2- to 5-year-old children began to plateau between 2003 and 2004 (Fig 1). Data between 2003–2004 and 2009–2010 showed no statistically significant change in childhood obesity rates, whereas a decrease of 3.7% occurred between 2009–2010 and 2011–2012 in 2- to 5-year old children. No significant changes were observed in the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents in other age groups. Because of the small sample size, trends in ethnic groups other than non-Hispanic white subjects could not be reliably assessed. Furthermore, due to the relatively small sample …
Address correspondence to William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052. E-mail: