MADISON, Wis. - A new government survey shows obesity rates fell among preschoolers, but local health officials say. The numbers aren't quite as encouraging in Wisconsin.
The data, published in the Journal of American Medical Association Tuesday, found obesity among preschoolers fell to 8 percent over the last decade. The data said 8 percent children of 2 to 5 years old were obese in 2011 and 2012, which was down from 14 percent in 2003 and 2004, a 43 percent drop.
Madison's Kids Express Learning Center devotes an hour of exercise a day for the children. On Thursday, a dozen 3- and 4-year-olds were navigating an obstacle course.
"Parents really need to take ownership and accountability because that's where it starts," said St. Mary's Dietitian Marianne Merrick. "Eating habits start really young."
Merrick said despite the seemingly significant victory over childhood obesity, it's still a leading public health problem.
"I really believe we need to continue our laser focus on this situation we have in our nation," Merrick said. "It's really important, as we know there are so many things linked to obesity, and it's not good."
Children who are a little older aren't faring so well, according to Wisconsin's Department of Health. It surveyed 2,800 third-graders in public schools and found obesity rates jumped 4 percent in the last five years, which is a 30 percent increase.
Merrick suggests throwing out soda and adding a variety of vegetables to any diet.
"If you go back to basics and use whole foods, you're going to do well," Merrick said.
Meanwhile, the same AMA data said obesity rates for adults are holding steady, even going up for women 60 and older.
But for now, it's just looking at the positive effect it has had on preschoolers.
Public school students are required to have physical education three times a week, but a new bill in the Legislature would require they get 30 minutes of physical education a day.
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