Learn the Facts

Get the Facts on the Obesity Epidemic

This video was originally produced by PublicHealth.org. To learn more about the ongoing efforts to raise awareness of obesity, please go here.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a condition in which a person has an abnormally high and unhealthy proportion of body fat resulting in a negative effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased physical and mental health problems.

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States today and a major cause of death. According to the CDC, approximately one in three adults and more than one third of children are overweight or obese – that’s more than 23 million children and teenagers. Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in the past 30 years. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle through eating healthy and staying active which can encourage those around you to do the same.

Unfortunately, more and more children are being diagnosed with obesity contributing to related conditions which until recently were traditionally seen only in adults, such as:

  • Type 2 diabeteshike
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Asthma
  • Some types of Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis

Moreover, overweight or obese teens are at high risk for:

  • Joint and bone problems
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Psychological distress due to stigmatization
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Decrease in academic achievement

On the bright side, obesity is considered the most preventable cause of death, after tobacco. Preventing obesity through a healthy lifestyle will also prevent early mortality, prevent chronic disease, and improve your overall quality of life. (1,2)

How is Obesity Measured?

To measure overweight and obesity, researchers commonly use a scale known as the body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by their height (in meters) squared and indicates whether a person is underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. You can calculate your BMI by using the BMI calculator listed in our Tools section.

Who is Affected by Obesity?

Everybody! Obesity in America is on the rise and affects people both young and old and all racial and ethnic groups. Populations are affected by obesity differently.


Due to this large increase in obesity, more and more children are now being affected by this epidemic. If a child is obese at age 4, there is a 20% likelihood that he or she will remain obese into adulthood. Parents and caretakers are the largest influences on children’s health, so it is important that they provide healthy food and exercise opportunities, and lead by example. (2,3)

Did you know…
  • Looking at a parents’ fruit and vegetable intake may be the strongest predictor of fruit and vegetable intake of their child. (6)
  • If obesity among kids continues to increase at this rate, our current generation could become the first in American history to live shorter and sicker lives than their parents. (6)
  • 1 in 7 low-income, preschool-aged children is obese. (6)


If you are obese as a teenager, you have a 80% chance of being obese as an adult. Obesity can negatively impact adolescent behavior, self-esteem, and even academic ability. Behavioral changes amongst teenagers that amplify the risk of weight gain include: increased sedentary time, access to junk food, peer pressure, as well as other environmental factors. (2)

Did you know…
  • Only about two out of three adolescents ages 12-17 are at a healthy weight. (2)
  • Less than 2/3rds of adolescents ages 12-17 get vigorous activity at least 3 days a week. (2)
  • 75% of teens drink at least one sugary beverage per day. (2)
  • Many adolescents have dietary deficiencies and adolescents in low-income families have less than average intakes of the vitamins and nutrients found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. (2)
  • 14% of high school students in LAUSD are obese. (4)

People of Color

Obesity disproportionately affects people of color and people in low-income communities. Ethnic and socioeconomic disparities affect access to food, the affordability of food, access to safe parks and exercise opportunities, educational opportunities as well as access to health care. In the face of these barriers, cultural competence is more important than ever. Culture and tradition can be a great way to implement healthy exercise and eating habits within any population. Find the foods and activities that make you feel good. (2)

Did you know…
  • Latino and African American youth in California had much higher levels of obesity than their White counterparts.
  • A quarter of Latino (25%), Native American/Alaska Native (25%) and African-American (23%) youth ages 10-19 are considered overweight or obese in California. (2)
  • Nationally Black females and Mexican-American males experience the highest rates of obesity among people 20 years or younger. (5)

How Can we Address the Obesity Challenge?patty

You’ll find that our site focuses on two main solutions to the obesity epidemic: healthy eating (check out our Eat Right section) and active living (check out our Get Moving section). There is a part for all of us to play in creating a healthy lifestyle for ourselves and for the people we love and work with. Our work focuses on preventing and treating childhood obesity within school settings. Schools are an ideal setting for promoting, engaging, and modeling life-long healthy eating and physical activity behaviors that could lead to the prevention ob obesity and type 2 diabetes in children and their families. We hope that teachers, students, clinicians, parents, and individuals will our resources to create a healthier lifestyle that will positively impact themselves and eventually the world!

What’s Next?

Eat Right
Get Moving
Healthy Living Tools
Healthier Lifestyle Links


1. http://www.cdc.gov/CommunitiesPuttingPreventiontoWork/program/obesity.htm
2. http://www.californiateenhealth.org/health-topics/nutrition-and-physical-activity
3. www.letsmove.gov
4. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/obesity/losangeles_obesity_combo.pdf
5. http://www.cdc.gov/stltpublichealth/didyouknow/topic/npao.html
6. https://www.healthiergeneration.org
Content compiled and page designed by: Masako Horino, Asia Tail, Angelica Earls — 2013  L.A. Trust Interns
Updated by: Deborah Ebrahemi, Tatiana Diacova, Cassidy Meehan — Summer 2015
To Learn more about our interns click here
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