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Mapping the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

A Geographic Profile of the Predicted Risk for Childhood Obesity in Communities Across the United States

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Document date: December 20, 2007
Released online: October 16, 2008

The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the full report in PDF format.


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 obesity prevention.

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.

(End of excerpt. The full report is available in PDF format.)

Topics/Tags: | Children and Youth | Cities and Neighborhoods

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