The childhood obesity epidemic demands everyone’s attention. Obesity is the most significant public health challenge our nation faces at this time because of the number of people who are obese or overweight and the ripple effects obesity has on the development of debilitating and costly chronic diseases.
During the past four decades, childhood obesity rates in America have quadrupled, and today, more than 23.5 million children and youth in America—nearly one in three—are overweight or obese. Furthermore, significant disparities exist. For example, more than 39% of Hispanic youth and black youth ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese, compared with about 28% of white youth.1 Communities with high levels of poverty and lower education levels are significantly less likely to have places where people can be physically active, such as parks, green spaces, and bike paths and lanes.2,3
If we do not reverse the obesity epidemic, our children are in danger of becoming the first generation of Americans who live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation. Furthermore, one-third of all boys and two out of every five girls born in 2000 or later will suffer from type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. That number is even higher among Hispanic and Black children.4
Overweight and obese children are at higher risk than their healthy-weight peers for a host of serious illnesses, including:
- heart disease,
- asthma, and
- certain types of cancer.
Obese children are being diagnosed with health conditions historically only seen in adults, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (CVD). In a sample of youth ages 5 to 17, 60% of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor.5
By reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity, we will make our nation healthier, save countless lives, increase economic productivity for the next generation of American workers and ease the tremendous financial strain on our health care system caused by obesity-related illnesses.