Abdominal Radiology

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 719–724

Dealing with the childhood obesity epidemic: a public health approach



Childhood obesity is one of the most pressing public health and medical problems in the United States. In the US, prevalence rates of childhood overweight and obesity have tripled in the past 30 years and the health implications and related medical costs of the disease are already evident. For the first time ever, weight-related Type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed in youth. Experts suggest that even if obesity prevalence remains static in the US, the lifetime risk of Type 2 diabetes for children born in 2000 is estimated at 30% for boys and 40% for girls (Narayan et al. J Am Med Assoc 290(14): 1884–1890, 2003). Annual hospital-related costs associated with treating obese children increased from 35 million dollars in 1979 to more than 127 million dollars in 1997–1999, based on 2001 dollars (Wang and Dietz Pediatrics 109(5): E81–E86, 2002). In addition to financial costs related to treating obesity, there are myriad social and personal costs of being an obese child and adult. This alarming rise in obesity rates among youth has been followed by initiatives by both the medical and public health communities to find appropriate and effective treatments as well as ways to prevent obesity. The following offers an overview of current trends and initiatives from both sectors and concludes with some thoughts on what the future may hold.


Childhood obesity Bariatric surgery 


  1. 1.
    Narayan KM, Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, Sorenson SW, Williamson DF (2003) Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States. J Am Med Assoc 290(14):1884–1890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Wang G, Dietz WH (2002) Economic burden of obesity in youths aged 6 to 17 years: 1979–1999. Pediatrics 109(5):E81–E86CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kuczmarski RJ, Ogden CL, Guo SS, et al. (2002) 2000 CDC Growth charts for the United States: methods and development. Vital Health Stat 11(246):1–190Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, Lamb MM, Flegal KM (2010) Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007–2008. JAMA 303(3):242–249CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Flegal KM, Wei R, Ogden Cl, et al. (2009) Characterizing extreme values of body mass index-for-age by using the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Growth Charts. Am J Clin Nutr 90:1314–1320CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Skelton JA, Cook SR, Auinger P, et al. (2009) Prevalence and trends of severe obesity among US children and adolescents. Acad Pediatr 9(5):322–329CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Koebnick C, Smith N, Colemen KF, et al. (2010) Prevalence of extreme obesity in a multiethnic cohort of children and adolescents. J Pediatr 157:26–31CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Oude Luttikhuis H, Baur L, Jansen H et al. (2009) Interventions for treating obesity in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Issue 1, Art. No. CD001872. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001872.pub2
  9. 9.
    Whitlock PE, Williams SM, Gold R, et al. (2005) Screening and interventions for childhood overweight: a summary of evidence for the US Preventive Services Task Force. Pediatrics 116(1):e125–e144CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Summerbell CD, et al. (2005) Interventions for preventing obesity in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 3:1–70Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    CDC (1996) Guidelines for school health programs to promote lifelong healthy eating. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 45(RR-9):1–33Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    CDC (1997) Guidelines for school and community programs to promote lifelong physical activity among young people. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 46/RR-6: 1–36Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    CDC (2000) School health index for physical activity and healthy eating: a self-assessment and planning guide. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of EducationGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Wechsler H, Brener ND, Kuester S, Miller C (2001) Food service and foods and beverages available at school: results from the school health policies and program study 2000. J Sch Health 71(7):313–324CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    O’Toole TP, Anderson S, Miller C, Guthrie J (2007) Nutrition services and foods and beverages available at school: results from the school health policies and program study 2006. J Sch Health 77(8):500–521CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    White House Task Force (2010) Childhood obesity: report to the president, solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. Washington, DC: Office of the President.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2009) Obesity prevalence among low-income preschool-aged children: United States, 1998–2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 58(28):769–773Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Eaton KD, Kann L, Kinchen S, et al. (2008) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States, 2007. MMWR Surveill Summ 57(4):1–131Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Barlow SE (2007) Expert committee recommendations regarding the prevention, assessment, and treatment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity: summary report. Pediatrics 120:S164–S192CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Epstein LH, Paluch RA, Toemmich JN, Beecher MD (2007) Family-based obesity treatment, then and now: twenty-five years of pediatric obesity treatment. Health Psychol 26(4):381–391CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Epidemiology and Community HealthUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations