One in six American youth between the ages of 10 and 17 are obese, a report from the finds.
Based on 2016 and 2017 from the , the research brief, (7 pages, PDF), found that the national obesity rate for the age cohort was 15.8 percent, ranging from 8.7 percent in Utah to 26.1 percent in Mississippi. While Mississippi is the only state with a rate significantly higher than the national rate, nine of the ten states with the highest rates are in the South, while nine of the ten states with the lowest rates are in the West or Northeast.
The analysis also found that racial and ethnic disparities in obesity rates persist, with African-American youth recording the highest rate, at 22.5 percent, followed by Latinx youth (20.6 percent), white youth (12.5 percent), and Asian-American youth (6.4 percent).
Experts that if current trends continue, more than half of today's children will be obese by age 35. To help prevent that scenario, the report calls on policy makers to prioritize obesity prevention by, among other things, maintaining and strengthening essential nutrition supports for low-income children, families, and individuals through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; ensuring that all students engage in at least sixty minutes of physical education or activity during the school day; and supporting access for low-income families to targeted home visit and community-based programs.
"Childhood obesity continues to be a major public health challenge, with significant financial and societal implications," said RWJF senior program officer Jamie Bussel. "Far too many young people in this country are facing increased chances of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, all due to a preventable condition. And black and Latino youth are still more likely than their white peers to face these problems. We must help all children grow up at a healthy weight, so they can lead healthy lives, and save the nation billions in healthcare costs."