"In children and adolescents, obesity is defined as being at or above the 95th percentile of the age and sex-specific body mass index (BMI); overweight is defined as being between the 85th and 94th percentiles, based on growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the past three decades, obesity has become a major public health problem, capturing the interest of health care professionals, policymakers, schools, employers, and the media. Although obesity rates have stabilized over the past decade, almost 32% of U.S. children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight, and more than half of those children are considered obese. […] Overweight and obesity are more prevalent among certain minority groups and low income children. Additionally, states with the highest child and adolescent obesity rates are concentrated in the southeastern region of the United States. Studies suggest that several factors may contribute to obesity, including behavioral factors such as energy intake (i.e., calories consumed) and physical activity, as well as familial, cultural, and socioeconomic factors. In recent years, Congress has sought to address this issue through legislation that promotes nutrition, healthy weight, and fitness, particularly in communities, schools, and federal nutrition programs. […] This report provides an overview of the data being used to inform federal obesity policy. It presents an overview of obesity statistics among children and adolescents, and includes a discussion of obesity measurement, trends in obesity rates, and differences that exist across gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location."
CRS Report for Congress, R41420