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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Reducing Childhood Obesity

Healthy Weight, Healthy Child

Resources for parents and children to help in the fight for healthy weight, healthy foods, and healthy exercise

National Institutes of Health programs include vital research and community outreach for healthy results.

At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), research on ending the epidemic of obesity is a high priority. In early 2003, NIH established the NIH Obesity Research Task Force to help coordinate the many ways that research could solve this health crisis.

In addition to the research, a number of institutes provide tools and information directly to the American people to help achieve healthier weights for our children.

Obesity in Children

Obesity means having too much body fat. It is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much. Both terms mean that a person's weight is greater than what is considered healthy for his or her height. Children grow at different rates, so it isn't always easy to know when a child is obese or overweight. Ask your doctor to measure your child's height and weight to determine if he or she is in a healthy range.

If a weight loss program is necessary, the NIH recommends that you involve the whole family in healthy habits so your child doesn't feel singled out. You can encourage healthy eating by serving more fruits and vegetables and buying fewer sodas and high-calorie, high-fat snack foods. Physical activity can also help your child overcome obesity or being overweight. Kids need about 60 minutes each day.

Fast Facts

  • One out of every three children in the United States is now overweight or obese. That places them at greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer over the course of their lives.
  • Obesity is estimated to cause 112,000 deaths per year in the United States.
  • One-third of all children born in the year 2000 are expected to develop diabetes during their lifetime.
  • The current generation may be on track to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
  • Obesity-related medical conditions cost nearly $150 billion per year. Overall, medical spending on adults attributed to obesity topped about $40 billion in 1998, and by 2008, increased to an estimated $147 billion.
  • Excess weight during childhood costs an estimated $3 billion per year.

To Find Out More

The following resources can help you help your child make good eating and exercise decisions:

Spring / Summer 2010 Issue: Volume 5 Number 2 Page 4