Rates of childhood obesity in the United States have increased dramatically over the past 40 years. The rate among children ages 6 to 11 has more than quadrupled, and it has more than tripled among adolescents ages 12 to 19. During the same time, our country has changed significantly. Physical activity has been engineered out of our daily lives and to a large extent removed from our schools. While unhealthy foods are now being sold in larger portion sizes and at lower prices, it has become more difficult for many families to buy healthy, affordable foods and beverages. In short, we have created a culture in which the healthiest choice isn’t always the easiest one, and that culture is impacting our kids.
Today, more than 23.5 million kids and teens in our country – nearly a third of all young people – are overweight or obese. These children are at risk for serious health problems, including many conditions associated with heart disease and stroke.
In order to raise healthy kids and reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, we must ensure that the places where our children live, learn, and play make the healthy choice the easy choice. Some of the cities, counties, and states that took on this challenge early on are beginning to see signs of progress. Childhood obesity rates are declining in some communities. We must do all we can to extend this progress across the country.
Learn more about childhood obesity in the Childhood Obesity Sourcebook. Understanding Childhood Obesity is an American Heart Association sourcebook on child nutrition and physical activity. Both the full and condensed downloadable PDF versions are an update of the 2005 version, A Nation At Risk. It’s a great resource for media, policymakers, health professionals, school officials and other stakeholders to begin meaningful dialogue toward concrete solutions to the obesity epidemic.