Patient Resources

The Pediatric Obesity Crisis

Obesity rates have more than tripled among children since the 1980s. This rising rate of obesity in the United States has resulted in increased attention to nutrition and long-term health.

In 2015-2016, 18.5% of US children and adolescents were obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the age- and sex-specific 95th percentiles of the 2000 CDC growth charts. Prevalence rates were higher among teens and school-age children than preschool-age children.

Prevalence of Obesity Among Youth, aged 2-19 years, by sex and age

Source: NCHS, National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, 2015-16

In South Carolina, nearly one-third of children ages 10-17 are considered overweight or obese (32.9%). Compared to the rest of the country, South Carolina has the 8th highest rate of obese high school students, the 6th highest rate of adult diabetes, the 8th highest rate of hypertension, and the 8th highest percentage of adults eating less than 1 serving of fruits and vegetables per day.

The CDC projects that one in three adults could have diabetes by 2050.

Children’s diets have become inadequate or deficient in several crucial nutrients, based on key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) 2010. Consistently, 30% to 40% of daily energy consumed by children and adolescents comes from calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods and drinks.

Energy balance—the balance of calories consumed through eating and drinking with calories burned through physical activity—is one of many reasons to promote healthful eating habits in children. Age-appropriate energy and nutrient intake are essential to support normal growth and development. Healthy eating and physical activity can reduce the risk of early development of diet-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, and osteoporosis. Furthermore, these healthy habits promote learning and academic success.

A variety of factors combine to contribute to the complexity of childhood obesity: energy imbalance, inactive lifestyle, poor sleep habits, emotional factors, genetic factors, medications, and environmental issues. There is no simple solution. Providers, families, and communities are starting to recognize the task at hand. Parents and other caregivers need education about nutrition and mealtime behaviors that promote the adoption of healthy eating habits in their children’s lives.

Find out how you can get involved locally in your church, school, YMCA, or community organization to encourage proper nutrition and exercise.

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Additional Resources

Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina, is dedicated to positively impacting the health of all South Carolinians by promoting healthy eating and active living.

LiveWell Greenville is a partnership of more than 100 public and private organizations committed to making Greenville County a healthier place to live, work and play

YMCA Greenville is part of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The YMCA encourages good health and fosters connections through fitness, sports, fun, and shared interests.

Kids Eat Right (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its Foundation) provides comprehensive, science-based resources for families on eating right, cooking healthy, and shopping smart, with tips, recipes, videos, and in-depth information.

USDA’s MyPlate provides science-based resources for parents and educators, including tip sheets on nutrition as well as games, activity sheets, videos, songs, and recipes for kids.


Adapted from Childhood Nutrition: Challenges and Tools
Article author Kristan Stewart, MPH, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health System (GHS).
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Wansin B, Van Inttersum K. Portion Size Me: Downsizing Our Consumption Norms. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2007;107:925-945.

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014;114:1257-1276.

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013;113:307-317. AAP Committee on Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools. Pediatrics. 2015;135(3):575-583.

Healthier School Meals: A Summary of the New USDA Standards for School Breakfast and Lunch. Food Research and Action Center. January, 2012.

The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America.