FINALLY, AFTER nearly 35 years, we are putting a dent in childhood obesity. At least, Philadelphia is.

According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a 5 percent drop in childhood obesity in Philadelphia. Yes, that is small, but it is a trend in the right direction. Among 120,000 public school student study participants, between 2006-2010, obesity declined 8 percent for African-American boys, 7 percent for Hispanic girls, 0.8 percent for white girls, and 6.8 percent for white boys.

Perhaps some of the city's initiatives - like menu labeling in restaurants and reducing availability of sugary beverages, french fries and other unhealthy foods in schools - are making a difference.

Perhaps more parents are modeling good behavior, providing healthier meals and making exercise a regular part of the family lifestyle.

Whatever it is, let's keep up the good work, Philly!

Nationwide, childhood obesity has tripled to 12.5 million children in the past 30 years, according to the CDC. In Philadelphia, childhood obesity hovers around 50 percent, down from 55 percent. In North Philadelphia, the numbers are exceedingly high, around 68 percent.

While it's wonderful that we are making some progress, the trends in childhood obesity remain troubling because of the harmful effects on the body. According to the CDC, obese children are more likely to have:

_ High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which increases risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

_ Increased risk for diabetes.

_ Higher risk for breathing problems, including sleep apnea and asthma.

_ More joint and musculoskeletal problems.

_ Increased risk of fatty liver disease, gallstones and reflux.

_ Greater risk of social and psychological issues.

So, Philadelphia, let's lead the nation out of this epidemic, take the bull by the horns and lick this obesity thing once and for all!