On Monday, Duke researchers released a paper in the journal Pediatrics documenting their findings on childhood obesity in the United States, and the results are alarming.

Despite a host of programming to combat things like sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits, childhood obesity continues unabated, with a worrisome increase in severe obesity for 2 to 5 year olds. Analyzing data from the Center for Disease Control’s annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Duke and Wake Forest University researchers also identified disparities along racial/ethnic lines with African American and Hispanic children experiencing higher rates of obesity than their White and Asian American peers.

The current findings run counter to previous reports that childhood and adolescent obesity had stabilized or even decreased in recent years. It also suggests that current efforts to combat obesity are insufficient and may only be impacting specific areas of the country. Associate professor of population health sciences and lead researcher on the analysis, Asheley Skinner, put the findings into perspective: “Obesity in the youngest group is a concern…because when obesity starts younger, most of these children continue to have obesity throughout childhood and into adulthood.” In the long term, the implications of such trends range from increasing medical costs for concomitant diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure to decreasing life expectancy.

The Duke Team that collaborated on the recent report works out of Duke’s Center for Childhood Obesity Research, established in January 2017 under the Department of Pediatrics. Of particular interest is the Center’s stated goal to translate original research into policy change “by collaborating with legislators and key decision-makers and providing them with expertise and advice.”