Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity continues to be a problem for the nation's children. Hispanic boys and African-American girls are disproportionately affected. States are trying a variety of programs to reduce the growth of childhood obesity. 


  Download the PDF Version of this Brief

  Download the Excel Version of the Table: "State Childhood Obesity by Race and Poverty Rate"

Childhood obesity continues to be a problem in the United States.

  • Obesity now affects approximately 12.5 million U.S. children and teens (17 percent of all children and teens in the country).1
  • In 2009, 12 percent of high school students were obese.2
  • Overall, children living in rural areas are about 25 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than children living in metropolitan areas.3 The overall rate for children and adolescents has tripled from just one generation ago.1
  • During the past 10 years, however, the rapid increase of obesity rates has slowed and leveled.1
Minorities suffer from obesity at a higher rate than whites.
  • Hispanic boys and African-American girls are disproportionately affected by obesity.1
  • Hispanic children, as a whole, suffer from the highest overall rates of obesity (21 percent) and being overweight (38 percent)4
  • In 2007-08, Mexican-American children were 1.4 times more likely to be overweight as compared to white children.5
  • African-American children were 30 percent more likely to be overweight than white children in 2007-2008.6
  • Among Native American children younger than age 5, 20 percent are overweight and 20 percent are obese.7
Obesity can lead to serious health problems for children.
  • Obesity is one of the leading risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.8
  • Obese children are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, along with other health and psychological problems.9
States are trying a variety of programs to curb the growth of childhood obesity.10
  • Thirty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, have state laws addressing school nutrition.
  • Twenty-nine states have legislation setting some required amount of physical activity in schools.
  • Sixteen states have created a state task force or committee to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.
  • Nine states mandate the collection of body mass index or other health information in schools.

1 “CDC Grand Rounds: Childhood Obesity in the United States.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 21, 2011. 
2 “The Obesity Epidemic and United States Students.” Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. 2009. 
3 Lutfiyya, Lipsky, Wisdom-Behounek and Inpanbutr-Martinkus. “Is rural residency a risk factor for overweight and obesity for U.S. children?” Obesity. Sept 2007. 15: 2348-2356.
4 Branscum P, Sharma M. “A systematic analysis of childhood obesity prevention inteventions targeting Hispanic children: lessons learned from the previous decade.” May  2011. 12 (5): e151-e158.
5 “Obesity and Hispanic Americans.” The Office of Minority Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
6 “Obesity and African Americans.” The Office of Minority Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
7 Styne DM. “Childhood Obesity in American Indians.” Journal of Public Health Management Practice. 2010. 16 (5), 381-387.
8 Han, J.C., Lawlor, D.A., Kimm, SYS. “Childhood obesity.” The Lancet. May 2010. 375 (9727): 1737-1748.
9 “Childhood Obesity.” Healthy Youth! National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
10 “State Laws Addressing Childhood Obesity, 2010.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 
Childhood_Obesity.pdf405.45 KB
Childhood_Obesity.xls43.5 KB