Partner Spotlight

Facts About Childhood Obesity

Support Partnership for a Healthier America's work by making a donation. PHA was created to eliminate the nation’s childhood obesity crisis that is preventing many of our children from having a healthy future. While we have seen progress among preschool age children, we continue to face an enormous challenge: Approximately 17 percent of U.S. youth have obesity, and nearly one in three children and adolescents are either overweight or have obesity.

No one is immune to the risk of growing up at an unhealthy weight. Childhood obesity cuts across all communities and all categories of race, ethnicity, and family income. Alarmingly, the obesity problem strikes at an early age, with researchers estimating a staggering 9.4 percent of children ages 2 to 5 already have obesity. The obesity rate for children ages 6 to 11 has also more than quadrupled during the past 40 years – from 4.2 to 17.4 percent – as well as tripled for adolescents ages 12 to 19, climbing from 4.6 to 20.6 percent, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

We spend an estimated $190 billion every year to treat obesity-related conditions in America

Not only do childhood health costs exacerbate the problem, it’s worth noting that many weight-related health issues can turn into chronic conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) as children grow older and dramatically cut short their life expectancy.

The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is devoted to working with the private sector to ensure the health of our nation’s youth by solving the childhood obesity crisis. In fact, this crisis marks the first time in our history that a generation of American children may face a shorter expected lifespan than their parents. Recent research finds those most affected are lower-income individuals, African-American, Latinos, American Indians and those living in the southern part of the United States. Many live in communities with half as many supermarkets as wealthier neighborhoods. Communities with high levels of poverty are also significantly less likely to have safe places for children to play.

Key Facts:

  • In 2011-2014, 24.4 percent of African-American adolescent girls were obese.
  • Black and Latino youths have substantially higher rates of overweight and obesity than do their White peers. In 2011 and 2012, 22 percent of Latino children and 20 percent of black children had obesity compared to 14 percent of white children.
  • An overweight adolescent has a 70 percent chance of becoming an overweight or obese adult.
  • 6- to 8-year-olds with obesity are approximately 10 times more likely to become obese adults than those with a lower body mass index.
  • A third of the children born in 2000 in this country will develop diabetes during their lifetime.
  • Since 1980, the obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.
  • More than one in four 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States are now too heavy to serve in the military, a development that retired military leaders say endangers national security.
  • Children with obesity are already demonstrating cardiovascular risk factors typically not seen until adulthood.
  • Children and adolescents with obesity have a greater risk of social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem, which can continue into adulthood.
  • Children with weight issues are more likely to miss school and repeat a grade than children who are at a healthy weight.
  • Children with obesity have three times more healthcare expenditures than children at healthy weights, costing an estimated $14 billion every year.