Introduction – Winter 2011

The United States is facing an epidemic of childhood obesity. Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged six to 11 years increased from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0 percent to 18.1 percent. President Barack Obama has established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement strategies nationwide to substantially reduce the growing childhood obesity rate. In February last year, First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move!, a nationwide effort to “raise a healthier generation of kids.”

In rural areas, the challenge of combating childhood obesity can be even greater than in non-rural areas. Studies have shown that rural children are more likely to be obese and to have more limited opportunities for physical activity. Rural residents also often have less access to healthy food choices because of the dearth of large grocery stores.

In this issue, we look at programs that are working to combat rural childhood obesity and chronic health conditions such as diabetes through preventative school-based fitness and health education programs, and through intervention programs that target rural children who have already shown signs of or have family histories of chronic disease.


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