State Says New Numbers Show Ebb in Youth Obesity Rate

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Arkansas' top health official says the state seems to have stopped the increase of the number of schoolchildren considered overweight.

Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson says the latest report on public school students' body mass indices shows no decrease.  But he says the numbers aren't rising significantly, either.

The latest BMI reports show that 20.6 percent of tested children, about 75,544, are considered overweight, while 17.2 percent of kids, or 63,059, are at risk for being overweight.  Under guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, "overweight" is the highest classification for youth.

Last year, 368,801 students were tested, or about 77 percent of the state's 472,000 school children.  Thompson said absenteeism was the biggest reason why students weren't tested, though some opted out.

Since the state mandated BMI reports, the percentage of tested Arkansas youth considered overweight or at risk for being overweight has dipped slightly.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)