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Today, more than 23 million children and adolescents in the United States—nearly one in three young people—are either obese or overweight. Over the past thirty years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled. If this trend continues, the current generation of young people could be the first in U.S. history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obese children are more likely to have a whole host of problems, including: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem. Obese children are also more likely to become overweight or obese adults, setting them up for a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis as adults.
Though many factors influence a child’s risk of obesity – including genetics, behavior and the environment where a child lives – at the most basic level, obesity is caused by an imbalance in the amount of calories taken in through food and beverages and the amount of calories used up through daily physical activity.
The good news is that by developing healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and regular physical activity, any person can lower their risk of becoming obese and developing obesity-related diseases. For more information on lifestyle changes to prevent childhood obesity visit our Nutrition and Healthy Eating and Physical Activity and Active Living pages.
Other ways to address childhood obesity include programs and strategies to create healthier school and community environments. Click on the links below to learn about these strategies:
School wellness policies that promote healthier eating and more physical activity at school;
Safe Routes to School programs that promote safer biking and walking to school;
Programs to incorporate physical activity before, during and after the school day; and,