boys and girls. However, in those children under 2 years of age,3 the increased prevalence is more marked in girls than in boys.

High-Risk Population Subgroups

Although no demographic group in the United States has been untouched by the childhood obesity epidemic, there is evidence that some subgroups of the U.S. population have been affected more than others. As discussed below, certain ethnic minority populations, children in low-socioeconomic-status families, and children in the country’s southern region tend to have higher rates of obesity than the rest of the population. Either the factors driving the obesity epidemic are more pronounced in these high-risk populations and communities, or their children and adolescents may be more sensitive to, or less able to avoid, the causal factors when present. Additional efforts will be needed to identify the nature of the risk for obesity in these high-risk population subgroups.

High-Risk Ethnic Groups

Cross-sectional population-based estimates of obesity prevalence at 6 to 19 years of age are available for U.S. children and adolescents overall, and specifically for non-Hispanic blacks, non-Hispanic whites, and Mexican Americans (Figure 2-4).4

Although obesity is prevalent among children and youth throughout the entire population, Hispanic, non-Hispanic black, and Native-American children and adolescents are disproportionately affected when compared to the general population (Ogden et al., 2002a). With both sexes combined, up to 24 percent of non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American adolescents are above the 95th percentile. Among boys, the highest prevalence of obesity is observed in Mexican Americans and among girls, the highest prevalence is observed in non-Hispanic blacks (Ogden et al., 2002a). American-


There are no BMI-for-age references or accepted definitions for children younger than 2 years of age. Weight-for-length greater than the 95th percentile is used by the CDC and the WIC program to define overweight in children under 2 years of age (see Chapter 3).


Standard terms used in the NHANES series include non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Mexican Americans. The ethnic and racial categories discussed throughout this chapter use those that specific researchers used for different data sets. This report generally uses the terms African Americans to refer to non-Hispanic blacks; Hispanics to refer to Mexican Americans and populations from other Latin-American countries of Hispanic descent; American Indians to refer to Native Americans; and whites to refer to non-Hispanic whites. The report also uses the term Asian/Pacific Islanders (which includes Native Hawaiians).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement