Introduction: The BIG Picture

Overweight and obesity is one of the most serious health concerns facing our nation. Almost two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese (1) , and an alarming 15% of children aged 6-19 years are overweight. (2) As we eat more and move less, the epidemic spreads across all races, genders, and socioeconomic classes at a dangerously fast pace. (3) According to the Surgeon General, “we are already seeing tragic results from these trends” – approximately 300,000 U.S. residents die every year because of preventable weight-related problems. (4) Obesity rates continue to rise in direct opposition to the Surgeon General's Call to Action and Healthy People 2010 objectives to reduce overweight and obesity. (3) Left alone, obesity may soon cause more death and disease than cigarette smoking. (4)

Compared with normal-weight children, those who are overweight are much more likely to become obese during adulthood (5) , and they are at greater risk of developing such debilitating diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. (6) Based on current trends, an estimated 1 in every 3 children born in 2000 will develop diabetes (7) .

Until now, childhood obesity has evaded most intervention efforts. Why? Obesity results from a complex interplay of physiological, psychological, environmental, and cultural factors. Successful treatment and prevention efforts require input and support from all members of the community, including families, schools, healthcare providers, community organizations, and policymakers. The purpose of this toolkit is to:

  1. Educate the public about the childhood obesity epidemic and its effects on physical, mental, social, and economic health;
  2. Encourage families, schools, community organizations, and policymakers to collaborate in designing and carrying out interventions;
  3. Provide a list of practical tools for interventions, e.g., educational resources, programs, legislation/policy, website links, and contact points.