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4-year-olds have high childhood obesity rate- found across all races

Posted on Apr 08, 2009 by Maggie LaBarbera

It was very disconcerting to read the latest childhood obesity report on childhood obesity and our preschool population. The study was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and looked at 8550 preschoolers born in 2001. The child's BMI percentile was calculated.

The study found these statistics:

  • 1 out of every 5 American 4-year-old was obese (not overweight, obese)
  • 31.2% of 4-year-olds who were American Indian, Native Alaskan were obese
  • 22% of the Hispanic 4-year-olds were obese 20% Black, non-Hispanic 4-year-olds were obese
  • 15.9% of White, non-Hispanic 4-year-olds were obese
  • 12.8% of Asian 4-year-olds were obese
What does that mean? That means that there are over half a million 4 year-olds that are obese.

This is a large group of children who will be at a very high risk for heart disease, diabetes, joint disease and other serious diseases. What will happen to their long term quality of life? What was also very concerning was the higher rates of obesity among minorities.

I know there are no easy answers but early nutrition education and parental support are going to be key factors in changing habits. 4 year-olds are still young enough to modify eating preferences and physical activity habits. They are actually still forming their habits and food associations so there is still a great deal that can be done to change the current direction of their health.

But, it starts with parents.I know, we have heard that a zillion times. But it is so true. Yes, TV is a huge influence on eating habits but at the age of 4, parents have the control. In fact, parents, you have a much larger influence on your children than TV!

Parents can help their children learn the fun and joy and daily activity and eating healthy. Start with simple changes, small ones. Keep it fun. Kids that age are easily excited about family activities. This can be an opportunity for the whole family to set some health goals and then let the kids track them.

Remember, Kids need to be involved. There are lots of ways to help your child become healthy and enjoy doing it.

  • they can help in the kitchen
  • give ideas for daily activities
  • they can color in successful goal accomplished
  • they can help find the most colorful fruit or vegetable in the market
  • they can help select a favorite TV program (limiting it to no more than 2 hours a day)
Here for some ideas on family health goals from our free nutrition education website

You can print our daily family healthy tips and post on the fridge! See how many you can do during the week.

There are family tip sheets for helping your child increase their activity, eating out healthy restuarant tips and even grocery shopping nutrients reference sheet.

A little about BMI scores:

BMI scores for children are not measured the same as adults because they are growing and these differences need to be accounted for. In children, scores are computed into percentiles for that particular age. Children with a 95% or greater for their age are considered obese.


ABC News- Preschool Obesity Rate Study

Learn more about BMI scores for children.

Find out if your child is at a Healthy BMI score.

Nourish Interactive's Free Nutrition Games





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