Background

Childhood obesity is common and costly, yet the latest estimates of state-wide prevalence available use data collected over ten years ago. More research is needed on the prevalence of childhood obesity in varying states to better plan to address this concern via prevention, treatment in primary care settings, and the provision of specialty care.

Methods

Participants included 71,811 youth from the 2016-2017 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). The NSCH is a nationally representative, cross-sectional survey of children’s health, special health care needs, and wellbeing. We conducted all analyses using SPSS v25 (IBM, 2017). Parents reported their child's current height and weight. These data were recoded into weight status categories, with the operational definition of obese as Body Mass Index-for-age > 95th percentile. We used the SPSS complex samples module to account for the complex sampling design of NSCH 2016-2017, generating national prevalence estimates for all non-institutionalized children ages 10 to 17.

Results

Rates of obesity among the United States ranged from 8.7 to 26.1, with a mean of 15.8%. Descriptive analyses revealed that the prevalence of obesity in Mississippi was the highest (26.1%), which was 28% higher than the state with the next-highest rate of obesity (West Virginia). A choropleth map (i.e., “heat map”) was generated to visualize the nationwide rates of childhood obesity.

Conclusions

Findings of present study add to the extant literature describing the rates of childhood obesity. Marked geographic disparities exist, indicating the pressing need to address this concern, particularly in certain states in the southeastern United States.