Childhood Obesity Impacts More Than One-Third Of U.S. Children

Michelle Obama announces a new food and beverage manufacturer agreement to reduce calories to help fight childhood obesity in Washington on May 17, 2010.

Childhood obesity continues to grow into an epidemic in the United States. More than one-third of U.S. children between ages 10-17 are considered obese (16.4 percent) or overweight (18.2 percent), says a report released last week from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

According to former Surgeon General David Satcher in a report from Education Week, that percentage has nearly tripled in the past 10 years.

The study itself looks at levels of obesity for U.S. citizens of all ages. In regards to children, the report took research from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, which determined obesity levels based on body mass index.

A few findings from the report, titled "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011,” include:

  • Nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of childhood obesity were in the South. Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia had childhood obesity rates above 20 percent. Illinois was the only non-Southern state above 20 percent (along with the District of Columbia). In 2003, when the last NSCH was conducted, only D.C., Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia were above 20 percent.
  • Nationwide, the report found that less than one-third of all children ages 6-17 engaged in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity on a day-to-day basis.
  • Only 11 of the 50 U.S. states require their schools to provide physical activity or recess throughout the day. The report notes that every state has some form of physical education requirements for students, but it calls many of the programs "inadequate."
  • In a look at the physical inactivity in adults (not children), the study found that the 10 states with the highest rates of physical inactivity all ranked in the top 12 in terms of obesity.

In order to reduce the prevalence of obesity in the U.S., the researchers recommend expanding the amount of physical activity in school and in out-of-school programs, ensuring that all food and drinks sold in schools meet or exceed the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and reducing youths' exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods.


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