Experts: Michelle Obama Cited Bogus Study Showing Drastic Drop in Childhood Obesity
7:17 AM, Mar 17, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
When Michelle Obama celebrated the fourth anniversary of "Let's Move," her White House initiative on fitness and healthy eating, she cited a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing a remarkable 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages 2-5. Mrs. Obama brought up the study again on Friday at a Partnership for a Healthier America’s Building a Healthier Future Summit. But a report by Reuters health & science correspondent Sharon Begley casts doubt on the validity of the results of the study. While Begley concludes that "no one can say for certain that the claim is wrong," the results are so uncertain that "based on the researchers' own data, the obesity rate may have even risen rather than declined."
The problem lies in large measure with the small sample size of the CDC study and its relatively large margin of error. Begley explains:
The study size is not the only problem. Other studies, some with considerably larger sample sizes, have shown significantly smaller decreases; others have shown little change; still others have actually shown obesity increasing. For instance, a study of 200,000 children in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program "found virtually no change in obesity rates":
This is not the first time Mrs. Obama has cited statistics in support of Let's Move that turned out to be less than meets the eye. Just last year, on the third anniversary of Let's Move, the first lady's office sent out a press release that appeared to take credit for the recent developments that "national childhood obesity rate has leveled off, and even declined in some cities and states." In particular, the White House highlighted a 13 percent decline in childhood obesity in Mississippi. But as we reported at the time:
This week's Reuters report questioning the 43 percent decline suggests one more reason to question the results showing a decline in pre-schooler obesity rates:
Rather than wait for results to come in over the long term, the White House seems too eager to show that Mrs. Obama's Let's Move program is having an impact while President Obama is still in office. However, continuing to cite studies that do not support the assertions being made may do more harm than good, not only to Mrs. Obama's reputation, but to the very causes her program seeks to advance.
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