The Unsettling State of Latino Childhood Obesity

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Recent reports have shown a leveling off in childhood obesity rates.

But, for Latino kids, the crisis of obesity is continuing at significantly higher rates than among their peers, according to new data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Trust for America’s Health, and the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative.

Across the nation, Latino kids ages 10-17 were more overweight or obese (39.9%) than their black (38.2%) and white (26.3%) peers.

“Children as young as 11 from socially and economically disadvantaged families and neighborhoods appear more likely to have thicker carotid artery walls, which in adults may indicate higher risk for heart attack and stroke in later life,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO, in a recent statement.

“Elected officials at every level of government should consider this a call to action for doubling down on investments in better nutrition and physical activity starting in the earliest years of life.”

Latino childhood overweight and obesity

The new data examines overweight and obesity data for children ages 10-17 by state.

In five states, more than half of Latino kids were overweight or obese.

Only one state—Arkansas—had more overweight or obese white kids than Latino kids.

In nearly a dozen states, more than 2 in 5 Latino kids were overweight and obesity. That’s compared to 1 in 5 of their white peers:

  • Rhode Island. 56.8% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (29.4% of white kids).
  • Maryland. 52.6% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (27.7% of white kids).
  • Pennsylvania. 51% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (31.2% of white kids).
  • Nebraska. 50.7% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (21.5% of white kids).
  • Georgia. 50.7% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (27.4% of white kids).
  • Wisconsin. 47.5% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (22.3% of white kids).
  • North Carolina. 46.1% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (23.5% of white kids).
  • Florida. 45.4% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (25% of white kids).
  • Idaho. 44% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (21% of white kids).
  • South Carolina. 43.1% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (22.1% of white kids).
  • Colorado. 42.5% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (19.8% of white kids).
  • California. 41.7% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (20.4% of white kids).
  • Texas. 41.4% of Latino kids ages 10-17 are obese or overweight (26% of white kids).

Other startling Latino child health facts

Latino kids also had the lowest percentage of children in “excellent or very good health” (84.8%) than their white (93%) or black (85.5%) peers, according to the new data.

Also, Latino kids ages 3-17 were more likely to need—but not get—mental health treatment or counseling.

Fortunately, policies and programs are emerging to improve mental health care for Latino kid, such as sports and mental health interventions in schools and community programs to boost access to care.

Check out Salud America!‘s Heathy Minds research and action page for more information!

“Latino and all kids deserve communities and schools that equitably support healthy minds,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.

Explore More:

Family Support, Healthy Minds

By The Numbers By The Numbers

37

Percent

of Head Start and Early Head Start participants are Latino.

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