Healthy body weight is critically
important to overall health and wellbeing
both during childhood and
later in life. Risk factors for heart
disease, such as high cholesterol
and high blood pressure, occur more
frequently among overweight children
than those with a healthier weight.
Overweight is also closely linked
to type-2 diabetes and can have
emotional effects such as poor selfesteem
and depression. Furthermore,
it is estimated that overweight
adolescents have a 70 percent chance
of going on to become overweight or
obese adults; this rate is even higher
among children with overweight or
obese parents.1 Overweight and obesity
and their associated health problems
create direct and indirect costs that
have significant economic impact on
U.S. health care expenditures.
The NSCH measures overweight
in children through parent-reported
height and weight measures.
“Overweight” means that the child’s
Body Mass Index (BMI), calculated
from the parent-reported height and
weight, is at or above the 95th percentile
for sex and age.2 When a child
is considered to be overweight, this
means that at least 95 percent of
children of the same sex and age have
lower BMIs, according to nationally
representative data on height and
weight that were measured by health
professionals in other research studies.
Overall, based on parent-reported
height and weight, almost 15 percent of children aged 10-17 in the United
States are considered overweight.
Children in urban areas are somewhat
less likely than children living in
rural areas to be overweight. Of
children living in urban areas, 14.2
percent are overweight; these figures
are 17.1 and 17.4 percent, respectively,
for children in large rural and small
In general, boys, younger children,
and children with lower family incomes
are more likely to be overweight than
their counterparts. Within each of
these demographic groups, children
living in rural settings are more likely
to be overweight than their urban
counterparts. For instance, 17.2 percent
of boys living in an urban area are
overweight, compared to 21.1 percent
living in large rural and 21.7 percent
living in small rural areas.
One of the most noticeable differences by location
occurs among children ages 12-14: 13.3 percent of children in this
age group who live in an urban area are overweight, while the same
is true of 18.7 percent of children living in large and small rural
areas. In most income categories, children in urban areas are least
likely to be overweight. For example, 21.8 percent of children living
in urban areas are considered overweight, compared to 26.3 percent
in large rural areas. The only exception is among children with
family incomes of 100-199 percent of Federal poverty level who,
although the difference is very slight, are most likely to be overweight
in small rural areas but least likely to be overweight in large
rural areas (20.3 and 18.1 percent, respectively).
1 Office of the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General’s
call to action to prevent and decrease overweight
and obesity. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services; 2001.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition and
Physical Activity. BMI for children and teens.
Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/
bmi/bmi-for-age.htm. Updated 8 June, 2005.