Most states fall short in providing healthy food environments: CDC

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Cdc

Most states are failing to provide adequate access to healthy food choices and take measures to tackle childhood obesity, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC’s Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report 2011 revealed that 32 states and the District of Columbia scored at or below the national average on the Modified Retail Food Environment Index, a measure of the proportion of retailers offering healthy food for sale within a state. The scoring system ranges from zero, indicating that there are no food retailers that typically sell healthy food, to 100, indicating that all food retailers sell healthy food. The national average was 10, with highs of 16 in Montana and 15 in Maine, and lows of 5 and 4 in Rhode Island and the District of Columbia respectively.

Director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Dr. William Dietz said: "To feed their children healthy food at home, parents must have ready access to stores that sell affordable, healthy food. Parents also want their children to continue eating well in school or child care facilities. This report highlights actions that states, communities, and individuals can take to improve children's food choices and influences."

While the Modified Retail Food Environment Index is an important part of the CDC report, it also detailed individual state’s efforts to meet public policy goals.

For example, it found that as of the end of 2008, only one state (Georgia) had enacted all of the regulations for child care facilities – restricting sugary drinks, requiring access to drinking water throughout the day, and limiting screen time. Twenty-nine states had enacted one of these measures, and 13 states and the District of Columbia had enacted none, the CDC found.

In addition, nearly half (49 percent) of middle and high schools allowed advertising for candy, fast food restaurants and soft drinks on school grounds, from a high of 70 percent in Ohio to 24 percent in New York. And nearly 65 percent of middle and high schools offer sugary drinks for sale at school.

CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said: “Childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years. This report underscores the need to make healthier choices easier for kids and more accessible and affordable for parents."

The CDC’s full report is available to download here​.

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