Students Who Are Overweight or Obese, by Gender and Grade Level

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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 identified as overweight or obese (i.e., scoring above the Healthy Fitness Zone of the Fitnessgram assessment), by grade, gender and grade, and race/ethnicity and grade (county- and school district-level). In 2014 and 2015 more than 90 percent of schools measured body mass index, which aligns with standards from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but some school districts may have used skinfold measurements or bioelectric impedance analysis to identify children in the Healthy Fitness Zone. For that reason, only the two most recent years of data are presented.
Weight
Characteristics of Children with Special Needs
Physical Fitness
Nutrition
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. D., et al. (2014). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents: United States, 1963–1965 through 2011–2012. National Center for Health Statistics. 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.  The State of Obesity. (n.d.). Racial and ethnic disparities in obesity: An in-depth look at the inequities that contribute to higher obesity rates in Black and Latino communities. Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from: http://stateofobesity.org/disparities

4.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Childhood obesity facts. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm

5.  Healthy Eating Research. (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. (2015). Childhood obesity causes & consequences. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/causes.html
How Children Are Faring
In 2015, 40% of 5th graders, 39% of 7th graders, and 36% of 9th graders in California public schools were overweight or obese. Figures vary widely at the local level. For example, among counties, the percentage of 5th graders who were overweight or obese ranged from 19% to 54% in 2015. Statewide, a higher percentage of boys are overweight or obese than girls. Differences among racial/ethnic groups in California also emerged. Specifically, about half of all Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino 5th graders attending California public schools were overweight or obese in 2015, compared to 27% and 28% of Asian American and White children, respectively.
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). 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, 5, 6)
  • 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 (7)
  • Funding and facilitating high-quality physical education, nutrition, and farm-to-school programs (3, 5, 8)
  • Encouraging child care and after-school programs to implement existing nutrition and physical activity standards, such as the National AfterSchool Association Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, 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)
  • 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)
  • 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 (9)
  • 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, 10)
  • Supporting public education to promote healthful eating and active living (3, 10)
  • Supporting efforts to implement common standards for marketing beverages and food to children and youth (9)
  • 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 LEAN, Action for Healthy Kids, and The State of Obesity. 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. Retrieved from: http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/articles-and-news/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 Obesity Prevention Program. (2010). 2010 California obesity prevention plan: A vision for tomorrow, strategic actions for today. California Department of Public Health. Retrieved from: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/COPP/Pages/CaliforniaObesityPreventionPlan.aspx

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

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

6.  Taber, D. R., et al. (2013). Association between state laws governing school meal nutrition content and student weight status: Implications for new USDA school meal standards. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(6), 513-519. Retrieved from: http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1675659

7.  BreakfastFirst. (2013). The benefits of breakfast: Health & academics. California Food Policy Advocates. Retrieved from: http://breakfastfirst.org/benefits-of-breakfast-health-and-academics

8.  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. Active Living Research. Retrieved from: http://activelivingresearch.org/when-school-districts-fail-comply-state-physical-education-laws-fitness-californias-children-lags

9.  Institute of Medicine. (2012). Accelerating progress in obesity prevention: Solving the weight of the nation. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2012/Accelerating-Progress-in-Obesity-Prevention.aspx

10.  The State of Obesity. (n.d.). Racial and ethnic disparities in obesity: An in-depth look at the inequities that contribute to higher obesity rates in Black and Latino communities. Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from: http://stateofobesity.org/disparities
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Weight