The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: The Social Work Response

Stacy Collins, MSW


Practice Updates


The past three decades have seen a startling increase in obesity rates among American children. Recent statistics show that one-third of U.S. children and adolescents (more than 22 million) are overweight or obese1 (Ogden, 2009). In the past 30 years, the obesity rate has doubled among young children ages 2 to 5 and adolescents ages 12 to 19, and has tripled among children ages 6 to 11 (Institute of Medicine, 2006). Obese children are being diagnosed with health problems previously considered to be “adult” illnesses, such as Type II diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and fatty liver disease (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2009). Overweight and obese children are at risk for a host of serious future illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, asthma, and certain types of cancer. Often, health complications place children at risk for psychological, social, and educational complications (Grey, 2008). Indeed, health complications resulting from obesity may slow or reverse the gains in life expectancy that Americans have enjoyed over the last half-century.

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