Overweight/Obese Students, by County
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Alameda County
Alpine County
Amador County
Butte County
Calaveras County
Colusa County
Contra Costa County
Del Norte County
El Dorado County
Fresno County
Glenn County
Humboldt County
Imperial County
Inyo County
Kern County
Kings County
Lake County
Lassen County
Los Angeles County
Madera County
Marin County
Mariposa County
Mendocino County
Merced County
Modoc County
Mono County
Monterey County
Napa County
Nevada County
Orange County
Placer County
Plumas County
Riverside County
Sacramento County
San Benito County
San Bernardino County
San Diego County
San Francisco County
San Joaquin County
San Luis Obispo County
San Mateo County
Santa Barbara County
Santa Clara County
Santa Cruz County
Shasta County
Sierra County
Siskiyou County
Solano County
Sonoma County
Stanislaus County
Sutter County
Tehama County
Trinity County
Tulare County
Tuolumne County
Ventura County
Yolo County
Yuba County
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Learn More About Weight

Measures of Weight on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, indicators of weight include:
  • Percentage of public school students in grades 5, 7, and 9 who are overweight or obese per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition, by county, city (20,000 residents or more), and grade (state-level only).
  • Percentage of public school students in grades 5, 7, and 9 who are at a healthy weight or 
    underweight per the California Department of Education definition, by grade, gender and grade, and race/ethnicity and grade (county- and school district-level). The Body Mass Index standards changed in 2014, making comparison to previous years inappropriate. For that reason, only the most recent year of data is presented. 
Weight
Demographics of Children with Special Needs
Nutrition
Physical Fitness
Why This Topic Is Important
Nearly one third of children ages 2-19 are overweight or obese in the U.S., according to a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index, BMI, at or above the 95th percentile for age and gender per the 2000 CDC growth charts, and overweight refers to a BMI between the 85th-95th percentiles). The childhood obesity rate has more than tripled over the past four decades, though rates have leveled off in recent years (1). While some progress has been made, data show that significant racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities persist in obesity prevalence (2, 3).

Overweight and obese children are at higher risk for a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, asthma, and some types of cancer; they also are more likely to stay overweight or obese as adults (4, 5). Some obese children are being diagnosed with illnesses previously considered “adult” conditions, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes (5). In addition, children with obesity are at increased risk for joint and bone problems, sleep apnea, and social and emotional difficulties, such as stigmatization and low self-esteem (4). Obesity’s impact also extends beyond the individual; U.S. medical care costs related to adult obesity are estimated between $147-$210 billion annually, with California having the highest obesity-related costs in the nation, at approximately $15 billion (2, 5).

Many factors contribute to childhood obesity/overweight. The rise has been attributed to changes in food environments that make non-nutritious "junk" food and beverages more available, affordable, and appealing; as well as social and environmental changes that have reduced physical activity among children, e.g., increased sedentary time with TV and computer use, less physical education, neighborhoods that do not promote walking or riding bikes, and decreased safe places for children to play, among other factors (5, 6).
Find more information and research about children's weight in the Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Fryar, C., et al. (2014). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents: United States, 1963–1965 through 2011–2012. Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_child_11_12/obesity_child_11_12.htm.

2.  California Department of Public Health, Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch. (2014). Obesity in California: The weight of the state, 2000-2012. Retrieved from: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/cpns/Documents/ObesityinCaliforniaReport.pdf

3.  Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2014). Special report: Racial and ethnic disparities in obesity. The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier Nation. Retrieved from: http://stateofobesity.org/disparities/

4.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Adolescent and school health: Childhood obesity facts. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm

5.  Healthy Eating Research: Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity. (n.d.). The childhood obesity epidemic. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from: http://healthyeatingresearch.org/who-we-are/the-childhood-obesity-epidemic/

6.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Overweight and obesity: A growing problem. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/problem.html
How Children Are Faring
In 2014, 60% of 5th graders, 62% of 7th graders, and 64% of 9th graders in California public school were at a healthy weight or underweight. Figures vary widely at the local level. For example, among counties, the percentage of 7th graders at or below a healthy weight ranged from 51% to 75% in 2014. Statewide, a higher percentage of girls are at or below a healthy weight than boys in grades 5, 7, and 9. Among racial/ethnic groups in California, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and African American/Black students have the lowest percentages at or below a healthy weight, whereas Asian American, white, multiracial, and Filipino students have the highest. 

Based on a separate analysis of 2005-2010 data by UCLA and the Center for Public Health Advocacy, the percentage of California 5th, 7th, and 9th graders who were overweight or obese (according to the CDC's definition) held steady from 2005 to 2010, hovering around 38%. These data, too, varied widely by county (25% to 47% in 2010) and by city (11% to 53%, among cities with available data). At the state level, the percentage of 5th graders who were overweight/obese consistently was higher than the percentages for 7th and 9th graders.
Policy Implications
California has been a leader in advancing policies to combat childhood overweight and obesity, from banning soft drinks and unhealthful food in schools to requiring nutrition labeling in chain restaurants (1). Yet the state continues to battle an overweight/obesity epidemic among children. While obesity rates have leveled off and even decreased in some cases, significant disparities persist by race/ethnicity and income (2). Reducing childhood obesity requires equitable access to safe places to play, frequent opportunities for physical activity in and out of school, affordable healthful foods and beverages, and less access to high-calorie and sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, among other factors (3, 4, 5). Public policy can make a difference by changing the environment in which children make food choices, live, go to school, and play.

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence children’s weight include:
  • Continuing to enforce and extend legislation that restricts sales of unhealthful food and drinks in schools; increases the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water in schools; and improves the nutritional quality of other foods and drinks sold at school (3, 6, 7)
  • Promoting increased student participation in the School Breakfast Program, as a healthful breakfast can help regulate food intake throughout the day and decrease the risk of obesity (8)
  • Funding and facilitating high-quality physical education, nutrition, and farm-to-school programs (3, 6, 9)
  • Encouraging child care and after-school programs to implement existing nutrition and physical activity standards, such as the National AfterSchool Association's Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, the California After School Physical Activity Guidelines, and Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs (3, 5)
  • Encouraging shared use agreements to make school recreational facilities available outside of school hours, especially in neighborhoods that lack safe places for physical activity (3, 5)
  • Supporting and planning for a built environment in schools and communities that encourages walking, bicycling, and outdoor play (3, 4)
  • Promoting cross-sector, comprehensive strategies to reduce consumption of sugary beverages and increase the availability of healthful affordable food options, particularly in low-income communities (10)
  • Ensuring that anti-obesity efforts effectively address racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequities, including engaging local communities in solutions and ensuring that strategies are culturally and linguistically appropriate (3, 11)
  • Supporting public education to promote healthful eating and active living (3, 11)
  • Supporting efforts to implement common standards for marketing beverages and food to children and youth (10)
  • Promoting evidence-based practices to increase breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity, as it has been shown to protect against obesity (2)

For more policy ideas about promoting healthy weight and fitness among children, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or California Project LEANAction for Healthy Kids, and the State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Physical Fitness and Nutrition

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2015). California: State reports decline in rates of overweight and obesity for grades 5, 7, and 9. Signs of Progress on Childhood Obesity Series. Retrieved from: http://www.rwjf.org/en/about-rwjf/newsroom/newsroom-content/2013/07/california--signs-of-progress.html

2.  California Department of Public Health, Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch. (2014). Obesity in California: The weight of the state, 2000-2012. Retrieved from: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/cpns/Documents/ObesityinCaliforniaReport.pdf

3.  California Department of Public Health, California Obesity Prevention Program. (2010). 2010 California obesity prevention plan: A vision for tomorrow, strategic actions for today. Retrieved from: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/COPP/Documents/COPP-ObesityPreventionPlan-2010.pdf.pdf

4.  Lanza, A., et al. (2012). How the built environment contributes to the adolescent obesity epidemic: A multifaceted approach. Vanderbilt Research Journal, Vol. 8. Retrieved from: http://www.homiletic.net/index.php/vurj/article/view/3504

5.  Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (n.d.). The state of obesity: Physical activity before, during and after school. Retrieved from: http://stateofobesity.org/physical-activity-in-school/

6.  Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2014). The state of obesity in California. Retrieved from: http://stateofobesity.org/states/ca/ 

7.  Taber, D. R., et al. (2013). Association between state laws governing school meal nutrition content and student weight status. JAMA Pediatrics. Retrieved from: http://www.rwjf.org/en/research-publications/find-rwjf-research/2013/04/association-between-state-laws-governing-school-meal-nutrition-c.html

8.   BreakfastFirst. (2013). The benefits of breakfast: Health & academics. California Food Policy Advocates. Retrieved from: http://breakfastfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/BenefitOfBreakfast-Factsheet-2013.pdf

9.  Sanchez-Vaznaugh, E. V., et al. (2013). When school districts fail to comply with state physical education laws, the fitness of California’s children lags: A policy brief. Retrieved from: http://activelivingresearch.org/files/PolicyBrief_PEPolicyCali.pdf


10.  Institute of Medicine. (2012). Accelerating progress in obesity prevention: Solving the weight of the nation. Retrieved from: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13275

11.  Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2014). Special report: Racial and ethnic disparities in obesity. The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier Nation. Retrieved from: http://stateofobesity.org/disparities/

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Weight