The obesity rate for young children from low-income families in the state decreased to 13.6 percent in 2014 from 14.9 percent in 2010, according to new data from two federal agencies.
The data, published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Agriculture, showed obesity among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in a federal nutrition program decreased in Washington and 30 other states.
The 2014 data, based on participants in the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, rank Washington 30th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The rates increased in four states: Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. Utah had the lowest rate, at 8.2 percent, while Virginia had the highest, at 20 percent.
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WIC provides food assistance, as well as counseling and education, to about 8 million low-income people, including women who are pregnant or new mothers, infants and children younger than 5.
A total of 18 states had obesity rates in the target population at or above 15 percent. In 2010, there were 26 states in that category.
While obesity rates among this population have been dropping in recent years, they remain higher than in the past. In 1992, the national average was 8.4 percent. In the most recent data, the average was 14.5 percent.
Two private groups, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, developed an online tool that offers state-by-state data (stateofobesity.org/wic).
They also provide a breakdown of state policies (stateofobesity.org/early-care) designed to promote nutrition and physical activity in child care settings.
“These data are encouraging because kids from lower-income families are especially vulnerable and often face higher risk for obesity,” said Dr. Donald F. Schwarz, vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“We must continue to track and analyze child obesity and the programs that aim to reduce rates, especially among our nation’s youngest kids.”
Rich Hamburg, interim president and CEO of the Trust for America’s Health, added that “we need to keep the momentum going to ensure young children and families have the support they need — through programs like WIC — that help improve access to healthy, affordable food, quality health care, home visiting programs and health and nutrition education programs.”
State-by-state childhood obesity data
An analysis of new state-by-state data from the WIC Participant and Program Characteristics Study lists obesity rates for children ages 2-4 by state. Virginia, at 20 percent, has the highest rate, while Utah, with 8.2 percent, has the lowest obesity rate. Washington, with a rate of 13.6 percent, is No. 30.
District of Columbia
Source: Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture