Largest declines seen among African American boys and Hispanic girls.

The overall obesity rate among Philadelphia schoolchildren fell more than 4.5 percent between the 2006-07 and 2009-10 school years, according to a study published today in Preventing Chronic Disease. The decrease, from an obesity rate of 21.5 percent to 20.5 percent, was reported among male and female students ages 5 to 18 from all racial and ethnic groups. The largest declines were seen among African American boys and Hispanic girls.

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The study reported a 7.6 percent decrease in the obesity rate among African American boys and a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate among Hispanic girls. While other cities and states around the country also are beginning to report decreases in their childhood obesity rates, Philadelphia is the first to record such marked progress among youths that have historically been at greatest risk for obesity.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and James S. Marks, MD, MPH, director of the Foundation's Health Group, write in a commentary accompanying the new study that the report from Philadelphia is "crucial proof of the concept that communities can reduce obesity rates—and do so in a way that helps to close the disparities gap."

Sam Posner, PhD, editor-in-chief of Preventing Chronic Disease, interviewed Marks and the study's lead author, Giridhar Mallya, MD, MSHP, of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, about the findings. A full recording of that conversation is available on this page for streaming and download.

The Foundation also released a Health Policy Connection brief describing the decline in Philadelphia and recent declines in New York City, Mississippi, and California. The brief notes that the places reporting declines are those that are taking comprehensive action to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Childhood Obesity

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