Overweight and Obesity

Overweight and obesity in children, as in adults, are assessed based on Body Mass Index (BMI), or the ratio of weight to height. For children, the standards for overweight and obesity are relative; that is, they are based on the child’s percentile rank compared to others of the same age and sex. Children whose BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentile on national growth charts for their age and sex are considered to be overweight, and those whose BMI falls at or above the 95th percentile are considered to be obese. The NSCH asked parents for the height and weight of their children, from which the BMI was calculated and the level of obesity assessed based on age and sex for children aged 10-17 years.

In 2011-12, 16.3 percent of boys and 15.0 percent of girls met the definition of overweight, and 18.4 percent of boys and 12.9 percent of girls met the standard for obesity. These proportions also varied by household income and race and ethnicity. The percentage of children who are overweight ranged from 12.8 percent of children with household incomes of 400 percent of the Federal poverty level (FPL) or more to approximately 18 percent of children with household incomes below 200 percent of the FPL. The range of obesity rates among children was wider, from 8.9 percent of children with household incomes of 400 percent of the FPL or more to 26.7 percent of those with household incomes below 100 percent of the FPL.

Among racial and ethnic groups, non-Hispanic White children were the least likely to be overweight or obese (14.2 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively) and non-Hispanic Black children were the most likely (18.5 percent and 23.1 percent, respectively).