The number of children who are overweight around the world has risen dramatically in recent years. Today an estimated 41 million children under age five are overweight, and this number is expected to nearly double over the next decade.

Children who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and other respiratory problems, sleep disorders and liver disease. They may also suffer from psychological effects, such as low self-esteem, depression and social isolation. Childhood overweight also increases the risk of obesity, non-communicable diseases, premature death and disability in adulthood.

The economic costs of childhood overweight and obesity are considerable, both in terms of the enormous financial strains it places on health-care systems and in terms of lost economic productivity. In many countries, the epidemic of overweight and obesity exists alongside a continuing problem of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, creating a “double burden” of malnutrition.

As the number of overweight children is on the rise in all corners of the world, in 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global childhood overweight target to halt the increase in childhood overweight by 2025.

Why it Matters

Childhood obesity is increasing in all regions of the world

Children who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure

Children who are overweight or obese have increased risk of obesity, non-communicable diseases, premature death and disability later in life

In many countries, childhood obesity exists alongside undernutrition, creating a “double burden” of malnutrition.

Scope of the Problem

41M

children under age five are overweight worldwide

66%

of overweight children under five live in low and middle-income countries

70M

children will be overweight by 2025 if current trends continue

Recommended Action

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Support Healthy Diets

Develop coherent public policies to ensure healthy diets throughout life by enacting policies to enhance food systems to support healthy dietary practices

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Dietary Guidelines

Provide authoritative food-based dietary guidelines to improve nutrition in the population by developing and approving a set of national dietary guidelines for all age groups

Photo credit: World Bank

Social Norms

Improve community understanding and social norms related to appropriate child growth by developing public and social marketing campaigns to support regulation of food marketing

Photo credit: Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

Physical Activity

Implement local policies to promote physical activity by creating an enabling environment that promotes physical activity from the early stages of life

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Obesity Resources

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