Childhood Overweight and Obesity in Wisconsin

State of Children's Health in Wisconsin

Childhood Overweight and Obesity in Wisconsin

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Pediatric Fitness

What is the definition?

The American Academy of Pediatrics describes an overweight child or adolescent as having gained weight beyond the healthy level for his/her height and notes that obesity represents an even greater increase of overweight. Body mass index (BMI), which is based on height and weight, is the measure used to determine overweight and obesity at the population level.

Among children at least 2 years old, being overweight is defined as having a body mass index which is at least 85th percentile and less than 95th percentile for children of the same age and gender; and being obese is defined as having a BMI which is at least 95th percentile for children of the same age and gender.

Adapted from

How many children are affected?

  • Based on 2011 self-reported data, among Wisconsin high school children, 25.3 percent were overweight or obese1*
  • When looking at 2011 self-reported data limited to Milwaukee high school children, the percentage of overweight or obese children was noted to be 35.4 percent1
  • Based on measurement data from 2010, 30 percent of the 2-4 year-old children participating in the WIC Program were noted to be overweight or obese2
  1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011
Wisconsin 22.4 23.7 23.8 23.4 24.9 23.2 25.3
National 24.6 24.1 26.6 28.6 28.4 27.4 28.2

Some problems associated with childhood overweight and obesity include:

  • Childhood obesity has been linked with increased risk for:
    • high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease
    • breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma o fatty liver disease, gallstones, and heartburn
    • problems with blood sugar regulation and type 2 diabetes
    • joint and muscle problems
    • social and psychological problems
  • Obese children are more likely to become obese adults

(Adapted from

Snapshot of Behavioral Risk Factors for Overweight/Obesity among Wisconsin Children1*

Dietary Behaviors

  • Percent Wisconsin high school students who self-reported that they eat vegetables less than three times/day: 87.3
  • Wisconsin high school students who self-reported that they drank a can, bottle, or glass of soda/pop at least one time/day (not including diet soda/pop): 23.1

Physical Activity Behavior

  • Percent Wisconsin high school students who self-reported that they are physically active (at least 60 minutes/day) for less than days/week: 48.4
  • Wisconsin high school students who self-reported that they did not attend physical education classes in an average week when they are in school: 48.4

What are strategies to help?

Parents, healthcare providers, schools and communities all have an important role in helping children achieve and maintain a healthy weight through promoting healthy eating and regular physical activity.

  • Parents can be role models for healthy dietary and physical activity behaviors.
  • Health care providers can routinely assess a child’s BMI, counsel about nutrition and physical activity accordingly, and promote breastfeeding (since breastfeeding can decrease the risk of obesity)
  • Schools can provide nutritious meals, promote sales of healthy foods in vending machines, and incorporate opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day
  • Communities can ensure access to affordable, healthy foods, provide safe areas to play and promote physical activity outside of school, and provide a breastfeeding-friendly environment

These are just a few strategies to help children have a healthy weight. Learn more at:

Snapshot of Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Policy3

Policy Description

Number of States with Such a Policy

Wisconsin has a Policy

Has a state law that prohibits sugar-sweetened beverages in school vending machines



Has a state law that requires physical education for all grades (K-12)



† 50 states and also includes District of Columbia


  1. 1999–2011 (* 2011 only) Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS)
  2. 2000–2010 Wisconsin Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS)