On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a rare morsel of goods news that interrupted the normally dreary narrative about low-income American children, their food, their bodies, and their health: for kids from low-income families, the obesity rate is down in 19 states.
The findings come as a contrast to a similar study in 2009 that only found declines in nine states and increases in 24 states. The New York Times called the study “the first major government report showing a consistent pattern of decline for low-income children.” The analysis was done on data collected by measuring the weight and height of 12 million children between two- and four-years-old between 2008 and 2011.
What’s interesting about the news is that no one’s sure exactly why the obesity rate fell. According to the Times:
The cause of the decline remains a mystery, but researchers offered various theories, like an increase in breastfeeding and a drop in calories from sugary drinks. In interviews, parents suggested that they have become more educated in recent years, and so are more aware of the health issues associated with being overweight.
Still, researchers are optimistic that this could be the beginning of real progress in addressing the obesity epidemic.
“This is the first time we have this many states in the U.S. showing a decline,” said Heidi Blanck, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who is an author of the report. “This is really broad. Until now it’s been a patchwork.”
She added: “We really think this is how we’re going to curb the epidemic, by getting really young children.”