- Associated Press - Friday, February 10, 2017

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Department of Health is claiming success in fighting childhood obesity despite numbers that show an unchanged percentage since it began tracking the rate nearly two decades ago.

The department announced Tuesday that 32.1 percent of South Dakota children ages 5 to 19 were either overweight or obese during 2015-16 school year. The results are compared to the previous year of 32.2 percent, the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/2k7SJB2 ) reported.

Ashley Miller, a state-employed chronic disease epidemiologist, said the fact that the rate isn’t rising is good news, despite missing its goal of reducing the proportion of obese children in South Dakota to 15 percent by 2010. The department now aims to reduce the proportion of obese children in the state to 14 percent by 2020.

“But bringing the rate down won’t happen overnight, just as reaching these levels didn’t happen overnight,” Miller said. “It’s going to take long-term effort from schools, communities and parents.”

Last year, a Rapid City Journal investigation found state government had received $1.7 million in federal Team Nutrition grant money since 2001. The funds were sub-granted to local projects that promoted healthier eating and better exercise habits among children. However, the funds only reached a few dozen schools or out-of-school programs each year.

South Dakota began tracking childhood obesity during the 1999-2000 school year, and there has been more effort to make school lunches healthier in recent years. The initiative was led in part by former first lady Michelle Obama.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com


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