The Issue

The epidemic

Childhood obesity is a chronic disease affecting a growing number of children. Learn more at kidsdata.org.

 

Causes

Many factors contribute to increased rates of childhood obesity.

  • Large portion sizes
  • Food advertising aimed at children
  • Community environments that prevent active living
  • Over consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Increased screen time
  • Access to low-cost, unhealthy foods
  • Decreased physical activity

Research also shows that increased rates of childhood obesity are correlated with food insecurity rates and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Consequences

Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term effects on physical, social, and emotional health.

Healthcare professionals are seeing earlier onset of Type 2 diabetes (normally an adult-onset disease), cardiovascular disease and obesity-related depression in children and adolescents. The longer a person is obese, the more significant obesity-related risk factors become.

A primary reason that prevention of obesity is so vital in children is because the likelihood of obese children becoming obese adults is thought to increase from about 20 percent at four years of age to 80 percent by adolescence.

Health Disparities

Health disparities are simply differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to health care between population groups. Disparities exist along racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and geographic lines. While obesity rates may decline overall, these inequities will persist unless intentional action is taken.

See Graphic website

Research also indicates that disparities exist in sugary drink consumption rates. Latino and African American children drink more sugary beverages than white children  –  likely the result of marketing campaigns by food and beverage companies that target children of color. These disparities contribute to inequitable health outcomes  that disproportionately affect communities of color – such as increased rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity .

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