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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use the term childhood “overweight” instead of childhood “obesity” due to the social stigma often times attributed to children who are overweight. Childhood “overweight” represents children who are in the 95th percentile of all children’s combination of weight and height measurements. Children “at risk for overweight” includes children who are in the 85th to the 95th percentile of all children measured.

There is an overweight epidemic among children both nationally and in Tennessee. According to the measurements of over 30,000 students by Coordinated School Health and Tennessee Department of Health staff in 2006, 43% of all Tennessee children are either at-risk for overweight or are overweight.

Why is this a concern?
Overweight and obese students face immediate health problems, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as emotional issues. Excess weight in adolescence carried into adulthood also predisposes youth for serious adult health risks such as coronary disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, some types of cancer and osteoarthritis of the weight bearing joints. (Source: US Surgeon General. The Surgeon General’s Call to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2001)

Although the “bottom line” for weight gain is consuming more calories than one expends, obesity is a chronic disease with multiple factors contributing to its prevalence. The increase in obesity among children and youth is linked to environmental and social conditions and poor nutritional habits.

  • Consumption of a high fat, high calorie diet
  • Ever-increasing portion sizes
  • Overindulgence or reliance on “fast foods”
  • Skipping breakfast and lunch and eating the majority of calories at night
  • Eating when anxious or depressed for mood control
  • Eating in association with sedentary activities, such as watching television
  • Decreased physical activity



Source of information: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Take Charge of Your Health: A Teenager’s Guide to Better Health (2000)

Source of Photo: Newsweek news article (2004)

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