Childhood Obesity

September 22, 2009

The rate of childhood obesity continues to rise, with 1 out of 3 children now considered to be overweight or obese. It's been estimated that 30 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls born in the United States are at risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives. They also face an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, liver problems and other obesity-related disorders that previously had been found primarily in adults.

Young people are also at risk of developing serious psychosocial burdens due to societal stigmatization associated with obesity.

Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children and youth more than tripled over two decades, rising from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999. After adjusting for inflation and converting to 2004 dollars, the national healthcare expenditures related to obesity and overweight in adults alone range from $98 billion to $129 billion annually.

Obesity prevention involves a focus on energy balance--calories consumed versus calories expended--so taking action against childhood obesity must address the factors that influence both eating and physical activity. Although it appears straightforward, these factors result from complex interactions across a number of social, environmental, and policy contexts. American children live in a society that has changed dramatically in the three decades over which the obesity epidemic has developed.

What are some of the factors behind this rise in obesity among our youngest populations? What can parents and kids do to address this growing problem.