CDC: Obesity rates for young children on WIC are falling in R.I.

PROVIDENCE – Obesity rates for Rhode Island children aged 2 to 4 years old enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, have fallen over the past six years, according to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the 10,783 kids in that age group enrolled in Rhode Island’s WIC program in 2010, 16.4% were obese. The number fell to 15.4% in 2016, when 6,984 kids were enrolled in the supplemental program, the report says.

The difference was similar in Massachusetts, where of the 49,178 on WIC in 2010, 17.1% were obese. In 2016, the obesity rate fell to 16.4% of 41,740 WIC recipients.

Findings in the Ocean State reflected a trend nationwide, where obesity hit 15.9% in 2010 and fell to 13.9% in 2016.

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From 2010 to 2016, the rates fell in 41 of the 56 U.S. states or territories where WIC is available. During that time, obesity rates ranged from 7.8% to 19.8%, the CDC reported.

A number of factors, including a 2009 design change on WIC food packages to more accurately reflect American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition guidelines, may have contributed to the shift, said R.I. Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken.

WIC has also promoted breastfeeding for infants, which experts say leads to lower obesity risks.

“These numbers are encouraging. We know that WIC supports the health and wellness of families throughout Rhode Island,” Wendelken said. “Ensuring that everyone has access to healthy and nutritious food is a critical part of addressing obesity rates in our state and across the country.”

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN staff writer. She can be reached at graham@pbn.com.

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