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PHOM Indicator Report of Obesity Among Children and Adolescents

Why Is This Important?

The number of overweight or obese children and adolescents is increasing and diseases previously thought to affect mainly adults, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, are now being diagnosed in children and adolescents. The social and psychological impacts of childhood obesity include social isolation, increased rate of suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, increased rate of anxiety disorders and depression, and increased likelihood of being bullied.

Percentage of Utah Children Who Were Obese by Grade and Sex, 1st, 3rd, and 5th Grades, Utah, 2012

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Data Source

Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Health Promotion, Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Program (2012) Height/Weight Measurement

Data Notes

Childhood obesity is determined by calculating BMI using the height, weight, age, and sex of the child. The child is considered to be obese if the resulting BMI is greater than or equal to the 95th percentile for age and sex based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Growth Charts (2 to 20 years: Boys Body Mass index-for-age percentiles and 2 to 20 years: Girls Body Mass index-for-age percentiles).   In 2012 height and weight measurements were collected from 4,477 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade students in 69 randomly selected public elementary schools in Utah.

How Are We Doing?

The percentage of obese children in Utah has increased dramatically over the past decade. From 1994 to 2012 the number of obese third grade boys increased by 105 percent, from 6.0 percent in 1994 to 12.3 percent in 2012. The percentage of obese third grade girls increased by 40 percent over the same time period. In 2012, 8.4 percent of third grade girls were obese compared to 6.0 percent in 1994.

Among adolescents, in 2013 6.4 percent of public high school students were obese; boys were almost twice as likely as girls to be obese (8.3% compared to 4.4%).

The obesity rate among adolescents in grades 8, 10 and 12 was lower in Summit County Local Health District (4.1%), Davis County (5.7%), and Utah County (7.3%) than the state rate (8.9%).

It is likely that these data, based on self-reported height and weight, under represent the prevalence of overweight or obesity among high school students.

What Is Being Done?

In 2013, through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a new program was established in the Utah Department of Health's (UDOH) Bureau of Health Promotion. The program was formed from the merging of the former Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity (PANO); Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention; Diabetes Prevention and Control; and School Health programs. The new program is named Healthy Living through Environment, Policy and Improved Clinical Care (EPICC).

In 2008, through funding from the CDC the PANO program was established. The purpose of the funding was to increase healthful eating and physical activity to prevent and control obesity and other chronic diseases by building and sustaining statewide capacity and implementing population-based strategies and interventions. In the first year, partners were convened to develop the Utah Physical Activity and Nutrition Plan (U-PAN) 2010-2020. The 10-year state plan was released April 2010 and addresses the six areas of focus including 1) increase physical activity; 2) increase consumption of fruits and vegetables; 3) decrease the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages; 4) increase breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity; 5) reduce the consumption of high energy dense foods; and 6) decrease television viewing. Implementation of the plan is accomplished through four workgroups: Schools, Healthcare, Worksite and Community.

Utah Partnership for Healthy Weight, a non-profit organization was incorporated in 2007. Currently the Partnership is focused on bringing informational and financial resources not readily available to state health departments to obesity prevention efforts in Utah. The Partnership works to coordinate the many ongoing and future initiatives within Utah's communities. UDOH staff attend regular meetings of the Partnership and also serve as Partnership board members.

Currently, activities are occurring in four main areas:

In Schools:
(1) The USDA's Healthier US Challenge helps elementary schools set up policy and environmental supports that make it easier for students and staff to be physically active and eat healthy food.
(2) U-PAN schools workgroup and Action for Healthy Kids are working with local school boards to improve or develop policies for nutritious foods in schools. This includes recommendations for healthy vending options.
(3) The "Unplug 'n Play" program encourages students and their families to limit TV and other screen time to less than two hours per day.
(4) Height and weight trends are being tracked in a sample of elementary students to monitor Utah students.
(5) Action for Healthy Kids brings partners together to improve nutrition and physical activity environments in Utah's schools by implementing the school-based state plan strategies.

In Worksites:
(1) The Utah Council for Worksite Health Promotion recognizes businesses that offer employee fitness and health promotion programs.
(2) The U-PAN worksite workgroup provides toolkits and other resources for employers interested in implementing wellness programs through the website:

In the Community:
(1) Local Health Departments receive federal funding to partner with schools, worksites and other community based organizations to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables through farmers markets and retail stores. Local Health Departments also work with cities within their jurisdictions to create a built environment that encourages physical activity.
(2) The EPICC program leads a statewide coalition to implement strategies within the U-PAN state plan.

In Healthcare:
(1) The Utah Medical Association's Healthy Lifestyles workgroup also serves as the U-PAN Healthcare workgroup. They work to address objectives of the U-PAN State Plan.
(2) Several of the U-PAN Healthcare Workgroup objectives involve regularly assessing and counseling for physical activity during patient visits.

Healthy People Objective NWS-10:

Reduce the proportion of children and adolescents who are considered obese
U.S. Target: Not applicable, see subobjectives in this category

Date Indicator Content Last Updated: 10/22/2013

Other Views

The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: "Retrieved Sat, 22 November 2014 14:06:38 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site:".

Content updated: Tue, 19 Nov 2013 23:09:23 MST