New surprising study suggests obesity rates are down among infants and toddlers; medical schools see growth in enrollment in extra degree programs as students seek an edge in what they believe will be a changing job environment. Plus, new study in the American Journal of Public Health shows higher rates of traffic fatalities in poor neighborhoods. Those top stories and more in today’s public health headlines.

Boston Globe – Obesity rates down for infants, toddlers
After a three-decade tripling in childhood obesity rates, the trend has leveled off and, for the first time, appears to be on a substantial decline – at least among Massachusetts infants and preschoolers, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute found that the percentage of obese girls under age 6 dropped from 9 percent to slightly more than 6 percent from 2004 to 2008; the percentage of obese boys under age 6 fell from nearly 11 percent to just under 9 percent during the same time period.

Austin American-Statesman – At Earth Day celebration, Austin unveils effort for sustainable living
The City of Austin’s “Rethink” campaign to get people to recycle, plant a garden, and ditch the car and ride a bike, could not have asked for better ambassadors than sisters Jaime Ford and Jenny Swan, who took their children to Sunday’s Austin Earth Day festival at the Mueller neighborhood in East Austin. “We recycle, and we don’t use chemicals. We use cloth bags and reuse plastic spoons,” said Ford, with daughters, Anna, 10, and Grace, 7.

American Medical News – Health system changes inspire more med students to pursue dual degrees
As they contemplate careers in a rapidly changing health care landscape, a growing number of medical students are deciding that a medical degree is not enough. Most U.S. medical schools offer students the chance simultaneously to get advanced degrees in a variety of other areas, such as public health, law, business administration, mass communications and the sciences. Some schools have offered the programs for more than two decades. However, more recently, dual degrees are growing in popularity as prospective physicians feel they must develop expertise beyond medicine to compete in a dynamic health care market.

LATimes – Traffic injuries much more common in poor areas, study finds
Here’s another way that rich people are different – they experience far fewer traffic accidents in their neighborhoods, according to a new study. This isn’t exactly a shocking conclusion. There are an estimated 40,000 road deaths in the U.S. each year, and many studies have found that these are more likely to involve low-income people in low-income areas.

Las Vegas Review-Journal – Dental health linked to eating, brushing habits
They have stuck with us through a lifetime of bad habits – the downing of sugary sodas, ice-chomping, pen-chewing, smoking, all-night bleaching. It’s a wonder they didn’t pull up roots and make a run for it long ago. But here they are – our teeth. While it was once a given that growing older meant loosing our precious pearly whites, advances in oral health care, including everything from fluoridated water to the newest in dental procedures, have made it likely that today’s middle-agers will grow into their twilight years with the same pointed cuspids and chomping molars they’ve had since braces and Boy Scouts.

The Hill – Senate Ag leaders come together on farm bill
The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have come together to agree on a draft 2012 farm bill, which establishes farm subsidies for the next five years. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and ranking member Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) released their draft on Friday and said a markup will happen April 25. The farm bill would reduce deficits by $23 billion, $10 billion less than called for in the budgets of President Obama and $8 billion less than called for in that of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

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