Newsroom

Obesity Fact Sheet

 

The percentage of overweight and obese children and adolescents in the United States is

alarming, leaving a high percentage of children and adolescents prone to developing chronic

diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Obesity now affects about 17

percent of U.S. children and adolescents (or 12.5 million from ages 9 to 19)—that’s triple the

obesity rate from just one generation ago!

North Carolina is no exception. Consider these statistics from Eat Smart, Move More North

Carolina:

• North Carolina has the 5th highest childhood obesity rate in the nation.

• Nearly one out of three (33%) children ages 10-17 in North Carolina is overweight or

obese.

Childhood overweight and obesity is putting today’s youth on a trajectory to becoming the first

generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents. Early interventions are key to

reversing this trend, and pediatrician-parent relationships are an important tool.

“We need to remember our role as healthcare providers throughout many transitions for children

and their parents,” says Eliana Perrin, MD, MPH, a leading authority in the prevention of obesity

in children, who conducts her research at UNC’s Department of Pediatrics. “First, we can

promote healthy habits from the beginning of life. So many very young infants are put in front

of the television, strapped away from play space, encouraged to eat unhealthy foods like french-
fries, and given juice and soda early in life. As children grow up, we need to help them combat

the toxic environment and help them find healthy dietary options and good options for play and

sports--options that don’t stigmatize them and create a vicious cycle.

Perrin researches how pediatricians can best help young people achieve healthy weight

trajectories. She has investigated the benefits of body mass index (BMI) screening and barriers to

physicians’ use of appropriate methods for obesity prevention and treatment.

“We really want to learn the ways parents and pediatricians can have good conversations

together that help prevent obesity—conversations that will motivate healthy behavior change

without making children or their families feel judged or stigmatized,” says Perrin.

She also studies physical activity like sports and the relationship between culture and obesity.

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