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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016

Obesity

Children with obesity often become adults with obesity, with increased risks for a wide variety of poor health outcomes, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and certain cancers.81, 82 The consequences of obesity for children and adolescents are often psychosocial but also include high blood pressure, diabetes, early puberty, and asthma.82, 83 The prevalence of obesity among U.S. children changed relatively little from the early 1960s through 1980; however, after 1980 it increased sharply.84 In addition to individual factors such as diet and physical activity, other factors, including social, economic, and environmental forces (e.g., trends in eating out), may have contributed to the increased prevalence of obesity.85 Previous research has found that the prevalence of obesity among children varies by race and ethnicity.86, 87

Figure 29: Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1988–2014
Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1988–2014

NOTE: Previously a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI growth charts was termed overweight (http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts); it is now termed obesity.88 Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately and combined for reporting according to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity for comparability with other states. Beginning in 2007, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey allows for reporting of both total Hispanics and Mexican Americans; however, estimates reported here are for Mexican Americans to be consistent with earlier years.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

  • From 1988–1994 to 2011–2014, the percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity increased by 8 percentage points from 11 to 19 percent. During the same time period, the percentage of children with obesity increased by 7 percentage points for White, non-Hispanic; 9 percentage points for Black, non-Hispanic; and 10 percentage points for Mexican American children.
  • From 1988–1994 to 2011–2014, White, non-Hispanic children were less likely to have obesity than Black, non-Hispanic and Mexican American children. During the same period, the percentages of Black, non-Hispanic and Mexican American children with obesity were similar.
  • Between 2007–2010 and 2011–2014, the percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity was not measurably different for each racial and ethnic group.

Figure 30: Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, 2011–2014
Percentage of children ages 6–17 with obesity by race and Hispanic origin, 2011–2014

NOTE: Previously a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI growth charts was termed overweight (http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts); it is now termed obesity.91 Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately and combined for reporting according to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity for comparability with other states. Beginning in 2007, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) allows for reporting of both total Hispanics and Mexican Americans. Beginning in 2011, the NHANES sample was designed to provide estimates for Asians. Estimates reported in the trend chart do not include Asian, non-Hispanics or Hispanics to be consistent with earlier years.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

  • In 2011–2014, 19 percent of children ages 6–17 had obesity.
  • Asian, non-Hispanic children ages 6–17 (10 percent) were least likely to have obesity, followed by White, non-Hispanic children (17 percent). The prevalence of obesity was highest among Black, non-Hispanic (23 percent) children and Hispanic (24 percent) children.

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81 Singh, A. S., Mulder, C., Twisk, J. W., Van, M. W., & Chinapaw, M. J. (2008). Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: A systematic review of the literature. Obesity Review, 9(5), 474–488. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00475.x

82 Whitlock, E. P., Williams, S. B., Gold, R., Smith, P. R., & Shipman, S. A. (2005). Screening and interventions for childhood overweight: A summary of evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Pediatrics, 116(1), e125–e144. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-0242

83 Lakshman, R., Elks, C. E., & Ong, K. K. (2012). Childhood obesity. Circulation, 126(14), 1770–1779. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.047738

84 Ogden, C. L., Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., & Johnson, C. L. (2002). Prevalence and trends in overweight among U.S. children and adolescents, 1999–2000. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(14), 1728–1732. doi:10.1001/jama.288.14.1728.

85 Barlow, S. E. (2007). Expert committee recommendations regarding the prevention, assessment, and treatment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity: Summary report. Pediatrics, 120(Suppl. 4), S164–S192. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-2329C

86 Ogden, C. L., & Flegal, K. M. (2010). Changes in terminology for childhood overweight and obesity. National Health Statistics Reports, 25, 1–8. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr025.pdf

87 Ogden C. L., Carroll M. D., Kit B. K., & Flegal K. M. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011–2012. Journal of the American Medical Association, 311(8), 806–814. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.732

88 Ogden C. L., Carroll M. D., Kit B. K., & Flegal K. M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among U.S. children and adolescents, 1999–2010. Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(5), 483–490. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.40