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This study explores the link between community risk factors and childhood obesity using data on child obesity from the 1988-1994 National Health and Examination Survey, the 2002-2004 National Medical Expenditures Survey, and the 2003-2004 National Survey of Children's Health, combined with data on community characteristics from a wide variety of sources. Multivariate models that relate child obesity to the characteristics of the child's community are used to predict the "risk of childhood obesity" for communities in the United States. The report includes maps and community profiles for 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The prevalence of childhood obesity has nearly tripled over the past 25 years, so that
more than 1 in 6 children between the ages of 6 and 19 are obese today. In response to this rapid
rise in childhood obesity, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) initiated a national
agenda for change that seeks to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015 by improving
access to affordable healthy foods and increasing opportunities for physical activity in schools
and communities across the nation. In pursuit of that goal, RWJF has developed three
integrated strategies that seek to: obtain evidence of what works, take action to promote the most
promising approaches and use advocacy to build a broad national constituency for childhood
With much of RWJF’s evidence, action and advocacy agendas focused on state- and
community-level interventions, there is a clear need to understand the prevalence of childhood
obesity at the state and local levels. Unfortunately, there is no data source that provides measures
of childhood obesity across all states and communities in the United States. To address this gap,
RWJF asked the Urban Institute to explore the association between community risk factors and
childhood obesity using national databases, with the goal of predicting the risk for obesity for
children in communities across the United States. This report summarizes the findings from that
study, providing maps and community profiles of the predicted risk for obesity for children in all
50 states and the District of Columbia.
We begin with an overview of the methods used to obtain the estimates of the risk for
childhood obesity and the results from the models that we estimated. The second half of the
report provides a series of maps and tables that document the predicted risk for obesity for
children across the states and within communities in each state based on our analysis.
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