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Childhood Obesity Facts

Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012

Childhood obesity rates remain high. Overall, obesity among our nation’s young people, aged 2 to 19 years, has not changed significantly since 2003-2004 and remains at about 17 percent. However among 2-5 years old, obesity has declined based on CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data. [Read abstract Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA)]

  • Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
  • The prevalence of obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years decreased significantly from 13.9% in 2003-2004 to 8.4% in 2011-2012.
  • There are significant racial and age disparities in obesity prevalence among children and adolescents. In 2011-2012, obesity prevalence was higher among Hispanics (22.4%) and non-Hispanic black youth (20.2%) than non-Hispanic white youth (14.1%). The prevalence of obesity was lower in non-Hispanic Asian youth (8.6%) than in youth who were non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black or Hispanic.
  • In 2011-2012, 8.4% of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese compared with 17.7% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds.

Note: In children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years, obesity was defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI-for-age growth charts.

Obesity and extreme obesity rates decline among low-income preschool children

[Read Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) study highlights (PDF - 143 KB)]

  • Obesity and extreme obesity among U.S. low-income, preschool-aged children went down for the first time in recent years, according to a CDC study.
  • From 2003 through 2010, the prevalence of obesity decreased slightly from 15.21% to 14.94%. Similarly, the prevalence of extreme obesity decreased from 2.22% to 2.07%.1
  • However, from 1998 through 2003, the prevalence of obesity increased from 13.05% to 15.21%, and the prevalence of extreme obesity increased from 1.75% to 2.22%.1
  • Extreme obesity significantly decreased among all racial groups except American Indians/Alaska Natives. The greatest decrease was among 2-year old and Asian/Pacific Islander children.1

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in the Prevalence of Extreme Obesity Among US Preschool-Aged Children Living in Low-Income Families, 1998-2010. JAMA. 2012; 308 (24): 2563-2565

 
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