Increasing rates of childhood obesity

an illustration of 3 overweight children playing

The rates of new cases of obesity in elementary school are higher and are occurring earlier in childhood than they were even a decade earlier, despite numerous public health efforts to promote healthy behaviors and to improve living environments. That is the finding of a study by Solveig A. Cunningham, associate professor of global health, published in Pediatrics. Obesity in childhood and early adolescence can be linked to poor mental health and is often a precursor to chronic diseases in adulthood, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study found that approximately 40 percent of today’s high school students and young adults had experienced obesity or could be categorized as overweight before leaving primary school. Also, the risk of developing obesity in primary school among the most economically disadvantaged groups increased by 15 percent during the past decade.

“These worrying data indicate that the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States continues to grow and get more serious. Our knowledge about effective interventions to fight this also seems limited,” says K.M. Venkat Narayan, Ruth and O.C. Hubert Professor of Global Health and co-senior author of the study. “We urgently need an aggressive national strategy for interdisciplinary research and public health to stem the tide of childhood obesity and its consequences.”—Rosemary Pitrone

Share This Story