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A look at the changing obesity landscape for kids

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FILE – In this Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 file photo, Oumou Balde, 4, left, plays with her teacher Jacqualine Sanchez, right, and pretend food in a pre-kindergarten class at the Sheltering Arms Learning Center in New York in a program to educate children about nutrition and health. According to a study published Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that obesity among children ages 2 to 5 dropped – to 8 percent, from 14 percent a decade ago. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 file photo, Oumou Balde, 4, left, plays with her teacher Jacqualine Sanchez, right, and pretend food in a pre-kindergarten class at the Sheltering Arms Learning Center in New York in a program to educate children about nutrition and health. According to a study published Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that obesity among children ages 2 to 5 dropped – to 8 percent, from 14 percent a decade ago. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

California would become the first state to require warning labels on the front of sodas and other sugary drinks under proposed legislation announced in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. A bill SB1000, by Sen. William Monning D-Carmel, would require manufacturers to place warnings on beverage containers that have added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories in every 12 ounces. The beverage industry notes that drink containers list the number of calories on the label. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

FILE – This July 26, 2011 file photo shows a McDonald’s Cheeseburger Happy Meal with the new apple slices option in Pittsburgh. McDonald’s Corp. says it is adding apple slices to every Happy Meal, part of the chain’s larger push to paint itself as a healthy place to eat. McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and other fast-food chains have made a point of adapting their menus in recent years to better reflect shifting tastes. That has led to an uptick in offerings designed to appeal to health-conscious diners and parents, whether they’re apple slices in Happy Meals, egg whites for breakfast sandwiches or whole grain breads. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

FILE – This Feb. 27, 2013 file photo shows first lady Michelle Obama speaking at a “Let’s Move!” program for 400 children at the Eastside and Northside Elementary Schools in Clinton, Miss. While first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and other efforts over the past 10 years have raised awareness about obesity, stumbling blocks remain for some working parents. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

FILE – In this June 3, 2011, file photo, first lady Michelle Obama tends the White House garden in Washington, with a group of children as part of the “Let’s Move!” campaign. A government report published online Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that, overall, both adult and childhood obesity rates have been flat in the past decade however, the preschool obesity rate _ those children ages 2 to 5 _ decreased to 8 percent, from 14 percent a decade ago. That would represent a 43 percent drop. While Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and other efforts over the past 10 years have raised awareness about childhood obesity, stumbling blocks remain for some working parents. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Is the anti-obesity message finally getting through?

A marked drop in the obesity rate among preschoolers in the U.S. has researchers and parents pointing to a variety of possible factors.

Among them: public-awareness campaigns to get parents to serve healthier food to their children; a drop in soda consumption; healthier menus at fast-food chains; more access to fruits and vegetables in some neighborhoods; changes in government food aid; and longer breast-feeding, which is often associated with improved weight control.

“We’re not done yet, but this does show that parents really need to be the commanders of their own ship and manage the food environment for their kids at home,” said Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian and associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

The glimmer of hope was contained in a government report issued Tuesday that showed that the obesity rate among children 2 to 5 years old dropped by nearly half over a decade, from 14 percent to 8 percent. That is encouraging in part because obese preschoolers are more likely to be obese as they get older.

Overall, though, both adult and childhood obesity rates have been flat in the past decade, and dietitians, weight experts and doctors warned that the problem is not going away.

“This is the problem of our generation. We are starting to make some progress, but there’s really still a lot more to do,” said Scott Kahan, an obesity treatment and prevention specialist and public health researcher at George Washington University.

For example, while first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and other efforts over the past 10 years have raised awareness, stumbling blocks remain for the poor and for working parents.

“They know their children should be more active, but it’s hard for them to get them to the park. They’re tired, and it’s complicated,” said Sarah Barlow, director of the Center for Childhood Obesity at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s an ordeal to get out of the house.”

Here’s a look at the changing health-related landscape that may have contributed to the drop in preschool obesity:

PARENTS SETTING THE EXAMPLE

Sherlyn Pang Luedtke, a parenting coach, said parents can improve their children’s eating habits, even if their own were less than stellar.

“I was raised eating fried eggs and rice almost every day for breakfast,” said Luedtke, who grew up near downtown Los Angeles and now lives in the suburban San Fernando Valley.

She and her husband have a 9-year-old son and a

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