By Chelsea Karnash

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A recent report seems to demonstrate that citywide efforts in Philadelphia against childhood obesity are working.

The report, which was published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in September 2012, reveals that the childhood obesity rate has dropped just under 5% in Philadelphia – the city’s first decline after decades of rising rates.

According to the report, Philadelphia was the only area “that has reported progress in closing the disparities gap,” achieving significant declines in obesity rates among African-American males and Hispanic females — two of the high-risk groups for obesity — and among children of lower income families.

The experts believe that far-reaching, long-term efforts to combat the city’s weight issue are responsible for the change in Philadelphia. The report cites a few such efforts, including The Food Trust’s push to bring fresh produce into schools, build supermarkets in underserved areas and ensure that farmers’ markets accept food stamps. It also mentions the long-term changes made to nutritional standards in the city’s public schools that were implemented starting in the early 2000s and continue today, such as swapping whole milk for skim and banning deep fryers in cafeterias.

And while Mississippi, California and New York City also showed a drop in the obesity rate, the study says those areas have not been as successful in closing the disparity gap as Philadelphia has. For instance, Mississippi reported a 13.3% decline, but that decrease was only among white children, and New York reported a much smaller decrease in obesity for at-risk populations, such as black and Hispanic children.

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