An initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

From Crisis to Opportunity

Reforming Our Nation’s Policies to Help All Children Grow Up Healthy

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October 31st, 2021


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.

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.

Explore the Data

Ages 10-17
In 2019-20, 16.2% of youth ages 10 to 17 had obesity.
Explore this Data
Ages 10-17
In 2019-20, 23.8% of non-Hispanic Black youth ages 10 to 17 had obesity.
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Ages 10-17
In 2019-20, 21.4% of Hispanic youth ages 10 to 17 had obesity.
Explore this Data

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
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.
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
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
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
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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