Childhood Obesity: The Preventable Threat to America’s Youth

The majority of American youth are sedentary and do not eat well. The resulting poor nutrition and lack of physical activity has created an epidemic of childhood obesity that is preventable, yet shows no sign of decreasing. Here are some statistics cited by the Action for Healthy Kids organization.  For more information, visit their site at

Prevalence and Trends 

Overweight and obesity impairs or threatens the health of millions of 

Poor diet and inadequate physical activity are the second leading cause of death in the United States and together account for at least 300,000 deaths annually.

Nine million American children are overweight, triple the number in 1980.

Childhood obesity among ages 2-5 has increased 35% in the past 10 years.

There is no indication that the incidence of overweight among children is decreasing.

Contributing Factors

Poor eating habits and lack of physical activity are root causes of overweight and obesity.

Only 2% of school-aged children consume the recommended daily number of servings from all five major food groups.

More than 80% of children and adolescents eat too much fat (more than 30% of total calories from fat). More than 90% eat too much saturated fat.

Ninety-eight percent of 6-18 year olds report eating at least 3 snacks per day, and more than 50% report 5 or more snacks daily.

More than 38% of students watch television 3 or more hours per average school day.

Fewer than 25% of American children get at least 30 minutes of any type of physical activity every day. 

Health Consequences

Childhood obesity is a medical concern, not a cosmetic issue.

The vast majority (between 70 and 80%) of overweight children and adolescents continue to be overweight in adulthood or will become obese adults.

Childhood weight problems can lead to complications such as elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, joint problems, Type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, asthma, depression and anxiety.

Severely overweight and obese children often suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, isolation from their peers, low self-esteem, and eating disorders. 

Of overweight 5 to 10 year-olds, 61% have at least one risk factor for heart disease.

Academic Consequences

Because multiple variables must be controlled when examining the relationship between weight and achievement, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions. Further, a correlation between the two doesn’t necessarily imply causation. However, several studies have examined this link.

Severely overweight children and adolescents (those above the 95th percentile for weight) were four times more likely to report “impaired school functioning”. 

Severely overweight children tended to have abnormal scores on the Child Behavior Checklist, and were twice as likely to be placed in special education or a remedial class setting.

Overweight kindergartners had significantly lower math and reading test scores at the beginning of the year than did their non-overweight peers, and these lower scores continued into first grade.

Economic consequences 

Severely overweight children miss four times as much school as normal-weight kids.

Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children increased more than threefold from $35 million during 1979-1981 to $127 million during 1997-1999. 

National health expenditures related to adult obesity range from $98-$129 billion annually.

Source: Action for Healthy Kids helps schools make changes that will make their students healthier, which in turn will improve their achievement.


0 responses to “Childhood Obesity: The Preventable Threat to America’s Youth

  1. Thanks for the recommendations shared on your blog.

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