Why Obesity Matters

“No problem needs our attention more than the epidemic of obesity in America”

– Dr. C. Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General

Key Facts

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980
  • In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, ages 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese
  • 65% of the world’s population lives in countries where complications from obesity kill more people than complications from being underweight
  • Nearly 43 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010
  • More than $147 billion is spent annually on obesity-related medical expenses and billions more in diets and weight loss solutions, most of which are associated with limited short term success
  • Obesity is the most rapidly progressive chronic disease of this millennium
  • Obesity is preventable, although it may not be reversible
  • Only 10,000 people have been reported in the weight loss registry to be able to lose weight and keep it off
  • In New York City public elementary schools, student-teacher ratios for physical education are estimated to be 730 to 1, and nearly half of schools offer no after-school sports or fitness activities at all

Childhood obesity is not just about being heavy. It is a crisis in America, causing lifelong health problems. And it is hitting poorest communities the hardest.

In New York City neighborhoods like Brownsville, two out of every three children are overweight. These children live in a community where rates of teen pregnancy, homelessness, incarceration and domestic violence are among the highest in the city. And the mortality rates here from diabetes, cardiovascular disease and H.I.V./AIDS are double those of the rest of New York City. Children have few safe places to play and parents have few places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. So, it is no wonder that childhood obesity here is three times the national average.

Obesity affects a child’s ability to succeed in school and causes life-threatening health problems.

Overweight children and adolescents are at high risk for developing serious illnesses like type II diabetes, severe asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, pulmonary disease, sleep apnea and even certain types of cancer. In fact, half of the children we see in our clinic suffer from more than one of these associated health problems.

Obesity doesn’t end in childhood. A staggering 80 percent of overweight children grow up to be overweight adults. Overweight children also struggle at school. They have higher rates of absenteeism and poor school performance largely because of weight bias. Research shows that bias against people who are overweight is widespread and difficult to change. In fact, a child is more likely to experience bias because of her weight than she is because of her race, gender or religion. Read more here.

Struggling to cope with weight bias in school, at work, at home or in a healthcare setting can cause stress, depression, anger, aggression, and thoughts of suicide. Half of the children in our program have been diagnosed with symptoms of depression.

But we can overcome this crisis. Live Light Live Right relies on a research-based, multidisciplinary approach to help children, their families, their pediatricians and their communities understand and fight this disease.