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Childhood Obesity by the Numbers

Issue Threatens Our Physical and Fiscal Health

SOURCE: AP/Paul Sakuma

Fairmeadow Elementary School second-grade student Jonathan Cheng, center, looks at fruits and vegetables during a school lunch program in Palo Alto, California. It’s crucial to continue pursuing programs that keep up the fight against obesity in our children and communities.

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Childhood obesity has far-reaching implications for America. It affects individuals’ physical and mental health, and it leads to billions of dollars in government healthcare costs.

This by-the-numbers approach shows the impact obesity has on American children, as well as on American workplaces and hospitals. It also looks at the potential solutions provided by recent initiatives and legislation.

Prevalence of childhood obesity

Almost one-third: The amount of children more than 2 years old who are overweight or obese.

This includes:

44.8 percent: Percentage of children in families below the poverty line who are overweight or obese.

22.8 percent: Percentage of children in families with incomes more than 400 percent above the poverty line who are overweight or obese.

Around 70 percent: Percentage of obese youth who have at least one other risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Around 40 percent: Percentage of obese youth who have at least two.

Costs of obesity in children and adults

Up to $147 billion: Recent direct-care costs for which obesity is probably responsible.

About $4.3 billion: Money lost annually due to absentee workers, an indirect cost of obesity.

506 dollars: Money lost annually due to lower worker productivity, another indirect cost of obesity.

Nearly $238 million: Money spent on obesity-related hospitalizations in 2005.

0.85 days: Additional length of obese child’s hospital stay. This costs an extra $1,634.

What’s being done?

A number of steps are being taken to deal with this problem. The president and first lady are particularly active. First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move! campaign, and there is now a Presidential Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which provides more funding and encouragement for schools to serve healthier meals. Further, Congress recently passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which includes provisions to counter childhood obesity. A new foundation, the Partnership for a Healthier America, also was launched to bring together public, private, and nonprofit sectors to address the epidemic of childhood obesity and support the goal’s of the first lady’s campaign.

Other policy proposals are still on the table. One example is the Healthy Food and Financing Initiative. The initiative will provide money to groceries stores across the nation, so that they can offer healthier foods—proven to be more expensive than their less-healthy counterparts. It will also help bring groceries to places that need them. It’s crucial to continue pursuing legislation that keeps up the fight against obesity in our children and communities.

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