Rates of Childhood Obesity

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following definitions:

        • underweight: BMI below the 5th percentile
        • normal weight: BMI at the 5th and less than the 85th percentile
        • overweight: BMI at the 85th and below 95th percentiles

Table 1 shows the increase in obesity that has occurred. Among preschool children aged 2-5, obesity increased from 5.0% to 10.4% between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008 and from 6.5% to 19.6% among those aged 6-11. Among adolescents aged 12-19, obesity increased from 5.0% to 18.1% during the same period.

Table 1

Age (in years)1 NHANES
1963-1965
1966-19702
NHANES
1971-1974
NHANES
1976-1980
NHANES
1988-1994
NHANES
1999-2000
NHANES
2001-2002
NHANES
2003-2004
NHANES
2005-2006
NHANES
2007-2008
Total (3) 5.0 5.5 10.0 13.9 15.4 17.1 15.5 16.9
2-5 (3) 5.0 5.0 7.2 10.3 10.6 13.9 11.0 10.4
6-11 4.2 4.0 6.5 11.3 15.1 16.3 18.8 15.1 19.6
12-19 4.6 6.1 5.0 10.5 14.8 16.7 17.4 17.8 18.1

1 Excludes pregnant women starting with 1971-1974. Pregnancy status not available for 1963-1965 and 1966-1970.

2 Data for 1963-1965 are for children aged 6-11; data for 1966-1970 are for adolescents aged 12-17, not 12-19 years.

3 Children aged 2-5 were not included in the surveys undertaken in the 1960s.

NOTE: Obesity defined as body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Adolescent Obesity

There are significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents. Table 2 shows the estimates in obesity prevalence by race/ethnicity for boys and girls since NHANES III (1988-1994).

In 2007-2008, the prevalence of obesity was significantly higher among Mexican-American adolescent boys (26.8%) than among non-Hispanic white adolescent boys (16.7%). In NHANES III (1988-1994) there was no significant difference in prevalence between Mexican-American and non-Hispanic white adolescent boys. Table 2 indicated the Prevalence of obesity among U.S. adolescents aged 12-19, for selected years 1988-1994 through 2007-2008.

Table 2
NHANES 1988-1994 NHANES
1999-2000
NHANES 2001-2002 NHANES 2003-2004 NHANES 2005-2006 NHANES 2007-2008
Boys, All 11.3 14.8 17.6 18.2 18.2 19.3
Boys, Non-Hispanic white 11.6 11.8 16.6 19.1 15.5 16.7
Boys, Non-Hispanic black 10.7 21.1 16.7 18.4 18.4 19.8
Boys, Mexican American 14.1 27.2 21.8 18.3 25.6 26.8
Girls1, All 9.7 14.8 15.7 16.4 17.3 16.8
Girls1, Non-Hispanic white 8.9 11.0 13.7 15.4 13.5 14.5
Girls1, Non-Hispanic black 16.3 25.2 22.0 25.4 29.8 29.2
Girls1, Mexican American 13.4 19.3 20.3 14.1 25.4 17.4

1 Excludes pregnant females. NOTE: Obesity defined as body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to sex- and age-specific 95th percentile from the 2000 CDC Growth Charts.

The table below lists percentage of overweight and obese children by state (2007).

Percentage of Overweight and Obese Children: 2007 by State

Alabama 36.1% Montana 25.6%
Alaska 33.9% Nebraska 31.5%
Arizona 30.6% Nevada 34.2%
Arkansas 37.5% New Hampshire 29.4%
California 30.5% New Jersey 31%
Colorado 27.2% New Mexico 32.7%
Connecticut 25.7% New York 32.9%
Delaware 33.2% North Carolina 33.5%
Florida 33.1% North Dakota 25.7%
Georgia 37.3% Ohio 33.3%
Hawaii 28.5% Oklahoma 29.5%
Idaho 27.5% Oregon 24.3%
Illinois 34.9% Pennsylvania 29.7%
Indiana 29.9% Rhode Island 30.1%
Iowa 26.5% South Carolina 33.7%
Kansas 31.1% South Dakota 28.4%
Kentucky 37.1% Tennessee 36.5%
Louisiana 35.9% Texas 32.2%
Maine 28.2% Utah 23.1%
Maryland 28.8% Vermont 26.7%
Massachusetts 30% Virginia 31%
Michigan 30.6% Washington 29.5%
Minnesota 23.1% West Virginia 35.5%
Mississippi 44.4% Wisconsin 31%
Missouri 31% Wyoming 25.7%
Washington D.C. 35.4%

Source: Childhood Obesity Action Network. State Obesity Profiles, 2009. National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality, Child Policy Research Center, and Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. Retrieved 06/02/2010 from http://wwww.nschdata.org/content/07obesityreportcards.aspx.

Summary

Clearly childhood obesity is an epidemic that ultimately results in diminishing the lives of many of our children.  Part 3 – will focus on the health consequences of childhood obesity. Prevention can be summarized by:

  • Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
  • The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.
  • Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.