EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Health officials say the nation is slowly getting a handle on a broad epidemic that affects many Americans. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a decline in obesity rates.
The CDC says obesity among kids ages 2-5 dropped by 43 percent in the last decade. The badger state is seeing a slow decline as well, but Eau Claire County Health officials say there is room for improvement.
The drop in obesity rates in preschoolers is the brightest spot in the report. CDC officials say 17 percent of kids in the U.S. are still medically obese. The percentage is higher in Eau Claire County.
“For kids, particular head start and low-income kids, we see about 20 percent of the kids, slightly less than that, are obese or overweight,” said Director of the Eau Claire City County Health Department Lieske Giese.
Giese says educational efforts pushed in the last decade are paying off. Parents seem to be more aware of obesity and its risks today.
“When my daughter was little (she is 16 now) we gave her juice all the time; and that has been linked to obesity, that's one thing I would have done differently had I known,” said mother of four from Eau Claire Jen Vandyke.
She says her family made efforts to be healthier, and those habits evolved over the years. Vandyke says it's a commitment but it’s well worth it.
“We know that about a third of adults in Eau Claire County are obese,” said Giese.
She says by getting healthier themselves, parents set an example.
And as a dad of a 17-month-old boy, Greg Lemke Jr. agrees.
“I try to lead by example; exercise and eat right and everything, your kids are always watching your behaviors,” said Lemke.
Giese says the research findings are encouraging, especially because obesity leads to heart disease and early death and overall costs the state billions of dollars.
“It's not only about what parents do, it's all about what schools and daycares do; and if we can start changing the practices and policies at those kind of places it's going to make a huge difference,” added Giese.
Giese says the health department works with day cares and schools to make changes that encourage kids to exercise and eat better.
The First Lady Michelle Obama also announced a new government proposal that would curb junk food ads in schools.