Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, released the following comments on a study in JAMA: Pediatrics that shows mixed signs of progress in childhood obesity rates across the nation.

"While we would like to say that signs of progress are clear across the country in the fight to decrease obesity rates, the only clear sign is that there is more work to be done. While declines are in sight only among young children, the rate of severe obesity is on the rise among teenagers.

A longer-term analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data released Monday shows obesity rates are leveling off for whites and for our nation’s youngest children, however rates remain high for blacks, Hispanics and older children, especially rates of severe obesity. Based on the results of this report, there are striking statistics in disparities to note: • Hispanic females’ rates of overweight increased from 31.7% to 38.3%, obesity climbed from 15.7% to 20.4% and class 2 (severe) obesity more than doubled from 3.2% to 7.3% over the 14-year period. • Black males’ rates of overweight rose from 30.7% to 34.3%, obesity increased from 17% to 19.8% and class 2 (severe) obesity grew from 6.1% to 10.1% over the 14-year period.

Some states and communities are showing signs of progress to help these national numbers stabilize, but until we see major shifts towards downward trends, we look to community leaders to set aggressive goals to support a culture of health. This support will lead to more children with healthy food on their plates, more places for families to buy the kind of health food their families need and more physically active children. These changes are paramount to continue our progress in the fight against childhood obesity.

The American Heart Association remains steadfast in our commitment to improve the health of all Americans. This study underscores the need to focus our efforts with Voices for Healthy Kids, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association, to increase access to healthy foods and safe places to play in minority communities. Increasing severity of obesity is continuing to rise among Hispanic girls and non-Hispanic black boys. As a society, we cannot afford to allow the disparities of health to increase.

We are in this together as a nation. The American Heart Association is actively supporting communities across the country as they strive to gain better access to fruits and vegetables, build more parks and pedestrian-friendly streets and support schools and families as the core of a healthy community."

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JAMA: Pediatrics