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Special Report

From Crisis to Opportunity:
Reforming Our Nation’s Policies to Help All Children Grow Up Healthy

New data show that roughly one in six young people in the United States has obesity. High childhood obesity rates are a warning that our policies are failing our kids. Our new report lifts up solutions for helping all kids have a fair and just opportunity for a healthy life.

Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, talks about how to move forward from the pandemic and what she’s learning that’s shaping the Foundation’s strategy. mail Share your ideas for solutions with Jamie

Explore the Data

Childhood obesity continues to be a national epidemic and disparities by race and ethnicity persist. The newest available national data measure obesity rates among young people ages 10-17 for 2019-2020.

16.2%

In 2019-20, 16.2% of youth ages 10 to 17 had obesity.

23.8%

In 2019-20, 23.8% of non-Hispanic Black youth ages 10 to 17 had obesity.

21.4%

In 2019-20, 21.4% of Hispanic youth ages 10 to 17 had obesity.

12.1%

In 2019-20, 12.1% of non-Hispanic White youth ages 10 to 17 had obesity.

Contributing Factors

Obesity is deeply influenced by our policies and the opportunities we have in our communities.

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity—or the inability to afford enough food to be healthy—is often linked with poverty, malnutrition, and chronic health conditions like obesity. Children are more likely to face food insecurity than any other group in the United States.

Explore food insecurity in your state

Structural Racism

Structural racism is baked into our institutions, policies and practices—from residential segregation and discrimination in bank lending to how and where our food is grown, marketed, and priced. These factors fuel food insecurity and health disparities.

Visit RWJF’s collection on racism and health

COVID-19

The pandemic has disrupted every system of our lives: economic, education, health care, food, housing. Its consequences, like obesity, disproportionately affect children of color and families living furthest from economic opportunity.

Read a discussion with experts about how COVID-19 impacts childhood obesity

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity—or the inability to afford enough food to be healthy—is often linked with poverty, malnutrition, and chronic health conditions like obesity. Children are more likely to face food insecurity than any other group in the United States.

Explore food insecurity in your state

Structural Racism

Structural racism is baked into our institutions, policies and practices—from residential segregation and discrimination in bank lending to how and where our food is grown, marketed, and priced. These factors fuel food insecurity and health disparities.

Visit RWJF’s collection on racism and health

COVID-19

The pandemic has disrupted every system of our lives: economic, education, health care, food, housing. Its consequences, like obesity, disproportionately affect children of color and families living furthest from economic opportunity.

Read a discussion with experts about how COVID-19 impacts childhood obesity

Our Solutions

See how the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to help children grow up healthy.

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Strengthening Federal Policy

Federal nutrition programs such as WIC, school meals, and SNAP are proven to help alleviate child hunger, reduce food insecurity, and support a healthy diet.

See our policy recommendations
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Fighting for Food Justice

Access to healthy food is a basic human right that starts by helping people grow, sell, and consume high-quality, nutritious food in their own community.

Read about the food justice movement in Detroit
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Prioritizing Health Equity

Health equity means increasing opportunities so that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

Learn how one tribal community is prioritizing health
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Lessons from Abroad

When it comes to kids’ health, other countries have much stronger safeguards than we do here in the United States.

Learn how Mexico is protecting children’s health
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Strengthening Federal Policy

Federal nutrition programs such as WIC, school meals, and SNAP are proven to help alleviate child hunger, reduce food insecurity, and support a healthy diet.

See our policy recommendations
image

Fighting for Food Justice

Access to healthy food is a basic human right that starts by helping people grow, sell, and consume high-quality, nutritious food in their own community.

Read about the food justice movement in Detroit
image

Prioritizing Health Equity

Health equity means increasing opportunities so that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.

Learn how one tribal community is prioritizing health
image

Lessons from Abroad

When it comes to kids’ health, other countries have much stronger safeguards than we do here in the United States.

Learn how Mexico is protecting children’s health
Report Cover

Download the Report

The 2021 annual report includes the latest data on childhood obesity rates, policy recommendations from RWJF, expert insights, and stories of action.

Download

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