Childhood Obesity Facts

Thirty years ago, having an overweight child was a challenge for a few. And, there was no medical terminology for the condition. By 2008, more than 20% of children were impacted by this phenomenon of the “energy in: energy out imbalance” we now know to be labeled “childhood overweight” and then for those with excessive body weight, “childhood obesity.”

Overweight and obesity should be determined by your doctor.

For years, doctors used height and weight measurements to assess a child's physical growth in relation to other kids the same age. Now they have an official tool: body mass index, more commonly known as, BMI.

The body mass index is a calculation that uses height and weight to estimate how much body fat someone has. Doctors now use it to determine how appropriate a child's weight is for a certain height and age.

Any child who falls at or above the 85th percentile may be considered overweight, and at or above the 95th percentile, obese. The body mass index tool isn’t used to estimate body fat in babies and young toddlers under the age of 2.

Create a Healthier Lifestyle for You and Your Family

Today, 1 in 3 children and adolescents, ages 2-19, are overweight or obese - triple the rate from just one generation ago.

Higher rates of overweight and obesity have occurred over the last few decades among Latino, African American, and American Indian children.

Fact Sheets


4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily physical education or its equivalent.

Half of obese teenage girls become extremely obese by their early 30s.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.