Obesity Prevention

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 community environments, policies, and systems 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 NYS Prevention Agenda 2019-2024.

Obesity is associated with a range of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, sleep apnea, and some cancers. 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.

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

Obesity Prevalence

  • The percentage of New York State adults who have overweight or obesity increased from 42% in 1997 to 63.6% in 2021.
  • The percentage of New York State adults who have obesity increased from 16% in 1997 to 29.1% in 2021.
  • Nationally, obesity prevalence is highest among Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic adults and adults without a high school degree or equivalent. These groups experience persistent disparities in obesity caused by systemic and institutional barriers, such as lack of access to healthy, affordable foods and beverages, safe and convenient places for physical activity, and healthcare services.
  • Obesity among children in the United States tripled since the 1970s. In New York State, an estimated 1 in 5 children have obesity weight status. New York State Prevention Agenda Dashboard (ny.gov)

Clinical Practice Guidelines

In 2023, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued the first clinical practice guideline on evaluation and treatment of pediatric obesity with whole child, evidence-based approaches that pediatricians can use to treat children and adolescents effectively and safely.

Body Mass Index Tools

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms (or pounds) divided by the square of height in meters (or feet).