There was good news this week for children and their future health. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports that obesity rates among children ages two to five has dropped over the past decade, from 14 percent to 8 percent—that’s a 43 percent drop, if you do the math. This is fantastic news – particularly coming on the heels of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reporting that children who enter kindergarten overweight are four times more likely, on average, to become obese. These two studies reinforce the need for parents, caregivers and pediatricians to work together, in the doctor’s office and the community, to combat obesity and help kids grow up healthy.
Raising awareness among parents and the public about the importance of healthy eating and exercise is an important national priority. This is evidenced by the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign. And if you haven’t been paying attention to it, you should (both for educational and amusement purposes). Just this week, the campaign released a video of Will Ferrell and First Lady Obama running a kid’s focus group. The pair asked kids for feedback about healthy eating and exercise. Much like a good Disney movie – it delivers for all ages.
It is also an important moment to remind ourselves of the interconnectedness of population health and the health care system. Children under the age of two see health care providers more frequently than in any other period of their childhood, and these visits are vital to children’s long-term health. Visits to the pediatrician are also important opportunities to coach and educate parents and caregivers about good healthy practices that may shape a child’s long-term health trajectory.
The most recent findings on childhood obesity are encouraging, but there is more work to be done. Ensuring that every child has the health insurance coverage they need to be healthy is a key component of the effort. Some states continue to mull over whether to accept federal funds to cover additional people or fully embrace the Marketplaces that now cover 4 million people. But time for action is now – children are more likely to have health insurance when their parents do – and healthy children are more likely to become healthy adults.