CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It has a long way to go, but West Virginia is starting to turn around the epidemic of childhood obesity.
More than 27 percent of the state's fifth-graders were considered obese in 2011. But at a recent Voices for Healthy Kids Conference, officials said that's a decline from 8.6 percent since 2005.
That makes West Virginia one of only five states showing a reversal.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association organized the conference.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting says Nebraska, California, North Carolina and New Mexico have also seen drops in childhood obesity.
Though the rates are still high in West Virginia, experts say any improvements are worth celebrating.
"Considering childhood obesity has been a virtual tsunami, any reversal in any community is an exciting development,'' said Bill Roach, chairman of an advisory committee to the Voices for Healthy Kids initiative.
"That's really why we wanted to bring these communities together in Washington,'' he said, "to educate others as to how they've been able to do it. Now is an 8.6 percent reduction significant? We'd love to see a 90 percent reduction. But the point is we're seeing a reversal in the trend.''
The Voices for Healthy Kids initiative aims to reverse the nation's childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.