A child shall lead


Start ’em young. Start ’em early.

That’s how some medical researchers think America can fix its weight problem — getting children to eat right, exercise, and resist the bad habits of their parents. For once, some of the latest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that may be happening.

New survey data show that although adults and older youths still haven’t made inroads on reducing flab, the obesity rate of children between the ages of 2 and 5 plunged by 43 percent over eight years. The rate was almost 14 percent in 2003-2004, but only 8 percent in 2011-2012.

The lead author of the CDC report, epidemiologist Cynthia Ogden, said it was “the first time we’ve seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group.” Researchers said the decline in obese preschoolers could have resulted from, among other things, more mothers nursing, better nutrition, more physical activity at child care centers, and lower consumption of sugary drinks.

Whatever the reason, the children’s older siblings, parents, and grandparents aren’t getting the message. The CDC said almost 18 percent of children between 6 and 11 remain obese, along with 20 percent of those between 12 and 19.

A third of adults are still obese. Worse yet, women 60 years old and older saw their obesity rate jump from nearly 32 percent to 38 percent.

These higher rates naturally temper any delight over the drop in obesity among young children. But they shouldn’t discourage Americans from adopting heart-healthy behavior.

As long as the decline in preschooler obesity is not a statistical aberration, something is going on among the young set that deserves emulation by their elders. Now that you’ve finished reading this, isn’t it time for a walk?