Obesity Prevention

The Obesity Problem

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in New York State and across the nation. While many epidemics can be defeated with a pill or a vaccine, preventing or reversing obesity requires changes in policies, systems, and environments to support healthy behavior including access to affordable, nutritious foods and opportunities for physical activity in the places where people live, learn, eat, shop, work and play. Creating communities that support healthy food and beverage choices and safe and accessible physical activity opportunities, while also increasing efforts to reduce health disparities and inequities, is a major goal in the effort to prevent and reduce the burden of chronic diseases as part of the New York State Prevention Agenda 2019-2024. Maintaining healthy weight should start in early childhood and continue throughout adulthood.

Obesity and overweight are currently the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States and may soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death. Obesity is also associated with impaired immune function, decreased lung capacity, and increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 potentially tripling the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID-19 infection, and as body mass index (BMI) increases, the risk of death from COVID-19 increases. Obesity also disproportionately impacts specific racial and ethnic minority groups, including Hispanic and Black non-Hispanic adults who have higher prevalence of obesity and are more likely to experience worse outcomes from COVID-19.

Failing to win the battle against obesity will mean premature death and disability for an increasingly large segment of New York residents.

Obesity Prevalence

  • The percentage of New York State adults who have overweight or obesity increased from 42% in 1997 to 63.3% in 2020.
  • The percentage of New York State adults who have obesity increased from 16% in 1997 to 26.3% in 2020.
  • Obesity among children and adolescents has tripled over the past three decades. Currently, a third of New York's children are obese or overweight.

Overweight and obesity cause serious health problems, including

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Several forms of cancer
  • Asthma
  • Osteoarthritis

Increasingly, many of these diseases, previously associated only with adulthood, are also being seen in overweight and obese children. Along with the risks for life-shortening chronic diseases, being overweight in a society that stigmatizes this condition contributes to poor mental health associated with serious shame, self-blame, low self-esteem and depression.