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Obesity and Health

​What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A crude population measure of obesity is the body mass index (BMI), a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of his or her height (in metres). A person with a BMI of 30 or more is generally considered obese. A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight.*

The Numbers
  • Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years from less than 5% to nearly 20%. Thirty-two percent of all US children are overweight or obese and, tragically, most of these children will go on to become obese adults 

  • In 2014, 62% of Canadian men and 46% of Canadian women aged 18 and over were overweight or obese.  Likewise, 29% of Canadian boys and 17% of Canadian girls 12-17 years old were overweight or obese.  

  • Not only are obese children at an increased risk of developing serious medical and psychological complications, they are also likely to stay obese into adolescence and adulthood 

  • On the basis of current trends of BMI and obesity, the projections for children between the ages of 2 years and 19 years is that the majority of today’s youth will be obese at the age of 35 years. Thus, it is pertinent that early intervention occurs. 

  • Globally in 2016, the number of overweight children under the age of five is estimated to 41 million, and over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese.  Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop diseases at a younger age. 

  • Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese. (Source:  “Obesity  Facts” (2016) online:

  • By the year 2022, if the current world-wide trends continue, child and adolescent obesity is expected to surpass moderate to severe underweight. 

  • In and amongst many causes of overweight and obesity in children, high calorie, low-nutrient food and beverage consumption, insufficient physical activity, sedentary activities such as watching television or other screen devices, medication use and poor sleep routines are some of the highest contributing factors. 

  • The consequences of childhood obesity are higher risk of adult obesity, early atherosclerosis, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease and premature death. 

  • Obese adolescents spend a disproportionate time in screen-based activities and are at a higher risk for clinical depression compared to their normal-weight peers. 

  • The factors limiting physical activity resulting from institutions are the insufficient and poor quality of open and closed spaces for physical activities, lack of equipment for the basic motor skills and the overcrowding of classrooms. 

  • Childhood and adolescent obesity strategy implementation relies on the supportiveness and structure of school climate. Barriers to prevention such as lack of resources, support or strategy clarity can impede efforts despite school commitment toward prevention, while collaboration can enhance likelihood the ractices are in place, especially giving students greater access to physical education. 

  • One of the strategies proven most successful in curbing the rising rates of childhood obesity involves targeting parents as agents of change. Messages of informing and equipping parents to address the needs of their obese child are most likely to teach families if communicated through doctors, government publications and community organizations. Further, messages targeting social groupings of parents will leverage the power of advice from friends. Inviting parents into the conversation as a community, whether through schools or community groups is essential for the reversal of obesity in their children. 


  * “WHO: Obesity” (2017) online:

  1. Reed V. Tuckson. “America’s Childhood Obesity Crisis and the Role of Schools.”Journal of School Health Vol. 83 Issue 3 (Mar 2013): 137-145.

  2. “Health Indicators, 2003-2014” (2015) online:

  3. Yipu Shi, Margaret de Groh, Howard Morrison. “Perinatal and Early Childhood Factors for Overweight and Obesity in Young Canadian Children” Canadian Journal of Public Vol. 104 Issue 1 (Jan 2013):69-74.)

  4. Ward ZJ, Long MW, Resch SC, Giles CM, Cradock AL, Gotmaker SL. “Simulation of growth trajectories of childhood obesity into adulthood” New England Journal of Medicine. Vol 377 Issue 22 (Nov 2017): 2145-2153.)

  5. “Childhood Overweight and Obesity” (2017), online: )

  6. “Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents and adults.” The Lancet Vol. 390 Issue 10113 (Dec 2017): 2627-2642.)

  7. “Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents and adults.” The Lancet Vol. 390 Issue 10113 (Dec 2017): 2627-2642.)

  8. “Childhood Obesity Causes & Consequences” (2017) online:

  9. Bass R, Enell L. “Severe childhood obesity: an under-recognised and growing health problem.” Postgrad Med J. Vol. 91 Issue 1081 (Nov 2015): 639-645.)(Source:  Goldfield, G.,Murray, M., Maras, D.,Wilson, A., Phillips, P., Kenny, G., Hadjiannakis, S., Alberga, A., Cameron, J., Tulluch, H., Sigal, R., Goldfield, G., Wilson, A., Kenny, G., Cameron, J., Sigal, R.J. “Screen time associated with depressive symptomatology among obese adolescents: a HEARTY study.” European Journal of Pediatrics Vol.175 Issue 7 (Jul 2016):909-919.)

  10. Fatma Kerkez, Faruk Akcinar, Varol Tutal. “Factors Limiting Physical Activity and Leading to Obesity in Kindergartens.” International Journal of Academic Research Vol. 5: Issue 6 (Nov 2013):9-16.

  11. Totura, C. M.W, Figueroa, H.L., Wharton, C., Marsiglia, F.F. “Assessing implementation of evidence-based childhood obesity prevention strategies in schools.” Preventive Medicine Reports Vol. 2 (Apr 2015): 347-354.)

  12. Randle, M., Okely, A., Dolnicar, S. “Communicating with parents of obese children: which channels are most effective?” Health Expectations Vol.20: Issue 2 (Apr 2017): 349-360).

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