Childhood Obesity Facts You Should Know

SMC was created to solve the nation’s childhood obesity crisis by educating and activating female college students during their influential transition into adulthood. Young women are at a critical juncture in development. As they learn to manage their own health and health care with less parental oversight, they are forming habits that will affect their well-being, learning, and personal and career fulfillment over a lifetime. Health education also impacts future generations. According to the US Department of Labor, roughly 80 percent of healthcare decisions in households are made by women. Our programs train female college students to be health leaders before conception.

Nearly one in three children and adolescents are either overweight or have obesity.

In the past 30 years, obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. The consequences of childhood obesity, which include diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses, are also rising. As this research indicates, overweight and obese young people have a very high probability of becoming obese adults, with all of obesity’s heightened health risks.

Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. Body mass index (BMI) is a widely used screening tool for measuring obesity. BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of a person’s height in meters. Scientists have found that BMI is moderately related to direct measures of body fatness. Measuring height and weight is easier and less expensive than other methods for assessing weight status. CDC defines obesity in children and young people as BMI at or above the 95th percentile for young people of the same age and sex.

For more information about BMI measurement for children and adolescents, click here.

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. According to Partnership for a Healthy America, researchers estimate 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)

52% of college students do not exercise at all. Students gain an average of 10 pounds during their first two years at college. 1 in 4 college women have an eating disorder. 150 minutes of exercise per week, losing 10% of body weight, and a healthy diet can reduce risks of diabetes by 55%. The more physically active girls are, the greater their self-esteem and the more satisfied they are with their weight, regardless of how much they weigh.


The financial implications of childhood obesity are sobering, at $190 million per year in direct health care costs alone.

Increased awareness and prevention of childhood obesity will save millions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs and promote healthier lifestyles to improve and prolong the lives of the next generation of Americans. Protecting the health and wellbeing of American children for years to come is a critical endeavor. When we invest in girls we ensure that young people receive a healthy start in life.

Aeshia Branch