ST. CLOUD - A report released Friday shows childhood obesity is dropping in Central Minnesota.

The study revealed obesity rates have dropped 20-28 percent for 5 to 12-year-olds from 2008-2015. Dr. David Tilstra is president of CentraCare Clinic, he says the results are encouraging, but more work needs to be done to promote healthier habits across the community.

"What we're seeing is in every group a substantial decline and it's really looking at kids as they progress through the years. So, looking at kids starting in 2008 to as recently as 2015 and what's happening with the percentage of them that are obese."

The study showed the benefits of the local BLEND (Better living: exercise and nutrition daily) initiative to fight childhood obesity and was discussed during the St. Cloud community pillars event. Since 2006, BLEND has had the goal of reducing area childhood obesity.

On average, communities with BLEND have lower obesity rates compared to other communities, this difference ranges between 2-4 percentage points (between a 20 percent and 28 percent change in rate).

Dr. Tilstra says BLEND will continue to work with community groups, businesses and through events to promote healthy living in Central Minnesota. Over 150 policies have been put into place since the inception of BLEND.

"An example might be going to a business and saying 'how can we help to get your vending machines healthier?' or 'how can we get you to get more activity with your workers so they have the opportunity to be healthier?'"

Nationwide, one third of adolescents are overweight or obese. Obesity among children aged 2-5 is on the decline, but rates have held constant for youth age 6 to 19 between 2002 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Locally, the results of the BLEND study point to a sustainable reversal in the region's previously-climbing childhood obesity rates.