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Facts About Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a serious, growing epidemic, cutting across all categories of race, ethnicity, family income and locale. Obesity rates tripled in the past 30 years, a trend that means, for the first time in our history, American children may face a shorter expected lifespan than their parents. Additionally, we spend $150 billion every year to treat obesity-related conditions, with childhood health care costs rapidly increasing that number.

Researchers have estimated that 16.9 percent of children and adolescents ages 2 to 9 are obese, and 31.7 percent are overweight. This translates to more than 12 million children and adolescents who are obese, and more than 23 million who are overweight.

Alarmingly, the obesity problem is starting at an even earlier age, with researchers estimating that 21.2 percent of children only ages 2 to 5 already obese or overweight, a percentage that has more than doubled during the past three decades. The obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has also more than quadrupled – from 4.2 to 19.6 percent – as well as tripled for adolescents ages 12 to 19 – from 4.6 to 18.1 percent – over the past four decades.

Some populations are more likely to be obese or live in unhealthy environments than others. Lower-income individuals, Blacks, Latinos, American Indians and those living in the southern part of the United States are among those affected more by obesity than their peers. Many of these communities have access to half as many supermarkets as the wealthiest areas. Communities with high levels of poverty are also significantly less likely to have places where children can be physically active, such as parks, green spaces, and bikes paths and lanes.