Childhood obesity is a serious public health concern in the United States and in many industrialized countries around the world. Today, more than 23 million children and adolescents in the United Statesnearly one in three young peopleare either obese or overweight, putting them at higher risk for serious, even life-threatening health problems. These health problems include diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Childhood obesity rates are not uniform across the population. Children of color are more likely to be overweight or obese than white children. If we don’t reverse the epidemic, the current generation of young people could be the first in U.S. history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation.
In addition to its serious health consequences, childhood obesity has real economic costs that affect all of our society. Childhood obesity is a risk factor for many costly chronic diseases that threaten the stability of our health system. The cost of adult obesity is estimated to be as high as $147 billion each year, and childhood obesity costs an estimated $14 billion per year in medical care alone. The epidemic is also a leading cause of worker sick days and school absenteeismtrends that jeopardize our nation’s economic strength. And military leaders have warned that childhood obesity threatens our national security, because so few young people are fit for military service.
The experiences of successful communities, backed by the latest scientific research, show that creating healthy environments is key to reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. When children have safe places to walk, bike and play in their communitieslike parks, playgrounds and afterschool programs, they’re more likely to be active and less likely to be obese. It’s the same with healthy food: when communities have access to healthy affordable foods, families eat better. Even the best efforts to educate families to exercise more and eat better won’t work if their communities don’t support healthy lifestyles.
NPLAN works with advocates and policymakers from the local to the federal level to create these healthy environments through law and policy.