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Children and Obesity - US - March 2009

This report examines the current state of childhood obesity in the U.S. and focuses on parents’ opinions on obesity’s cause, its prevalence and things that parents—and children—can do to combat it.

  • Childhood obesity rates have leveled off—but that is not necessarily all good. Too many children currently suffer from obesity; the leveling off may not indicate an improvement in the overall situation but may instead represent the point at which “there are no more kids who can be overweight” because of genetics and overall predisposition to the condition
  • This report looks at the two major contributors to childhood obesity: eating habits and exercise habits. Children tend towards overweight or obesity when the “energy in/energy out” balance tips towards the former and kids do not exercise enough to expend the calories they take in through eating. The sedentary lifestyle of most kids contributes to this situation
  • Also examined in this report are the efforts being made to improve the situation, by all stakeholders—from parents and schools, to food companies, the children themselves and others
  • Parents’ opinions about the obesity situation among children are discussed in detail, with a special focus on the opinions and actions of parents whose children have been diagnosed as overweight or obese

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
        • Data sources
          • Consumer survey data
            • Advertising creative
              • Abbreviations and terms
                • Abbreviations
                  • Terms
                  • Executive Summary

                    • How many kids are overweight or obese?
                      • The extent of parental concern
                        • Energy in—energy out: kids’ eating and exercising habits
                          • Not enough “energy out”
                            • What food companies are doing to help parents and kids
                              • Parents’ concerns about kids and teens
                                • Parents ask for help
                                  • Critical self-assessment: how parents think they are doing
                                    • An insider perspective: parents of overweight/obese kids
                                    • Insights and Opportunities

                                      • A new concern: recession-related obesity
                                        • What are the opportunities?
                                          • The link between obesity and sleep deprivation
                                            • What are the opportunities?
                                            • Inspire Insights

                                                • Trend: Learning through play
                                                  • What's it about?
                                                    • Learning through play can extend to learning about health and nutrition
                                                      • Figure 1: Parents’ opinions about select children’s health issues, December 2008
                                                    • Food companies can be more involved: Nestlé’s successful project in France
                                                      • Fit or Fat
                                                        • What's it about?
                                                          • Implications for childhood obesity include the balance between obesity and disordered eating
                                                            • Figure 2: Children’s health status—overweight/disordered eating, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                            • Figure 3: Concern for child/ren developing health issues—overweight/disordered eating, December 2008
                                                          • Teaching moderation
                                                          • Obesity Statistics

                                                            • Key points
                                                              • How many kids?
                                                                • Figure 4: Population, by children’s age, 2003-13
                                                              • How many obese kids?
                                                                • Figure 5: Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents aged 2-19, for selected years 1976-80 through 2003-06
                                                              • Race/Hispanic origin and gender play a role in obesity
                                                                • Figure 6: Prevalence of overweight among adolescents ages 12-19 years, by race/Hispanic origin, 1988-94 and 2003-06
                                                            • Contextualizing Childhood Obesity

                                                              • Key points
                                                                • Other health problems are more prevalent
                                                                  • Figure 7: Children’s health status, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                • Diagnosis rates may be low but concern is high
                                                                  • Figure 8: Concern for child/ren developing health issues, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                • The age of the child and the extent of parental concern
                                                                  • Figure 9: Concern about childhood obesity for own child, by age of child, December 2008
                                                              • Kids’ Eating Habits

                                                                • Key points
                                                                  • What kids eat
                                                                    • Food at home: Meals and snacks
                                                                      • Figure 10: Frequency of eating dinner as a family, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                    • Preparing meals at home
                                                                      • Figure 11: Children and teens who prepare their own meals at home, by age, July 2008
                                                                    • Snacking: too much of a good thing is still too much
                                                                      • Figure 12: Foods kids eat as snacks, December 2007
                                                                    • Food away from home: a look at restaurants and schools
                                                                      • The role of the restaurant
                                                                        • Figure 13: Frequency of eating at a restaurant, by gender and age, July 2008
                                                                      • School meals
                                                                        • Figure 14: Ways of making or getting school lunch, by gender, July 2008
                                                                      • A push for more healthful eating—vending machines
                                                                        • Figure 15: Snacks sold in vending machines at school, 2003-07
                                                                    • Innovation and Innovators: How the Food Industry is Trying to Help

                                                                      • Key points
                                                                        • Improving the quality of food for kids—getting rid of HFCS
                                                                          • Emphasizing healthy foods: “stealth” fruits and vegetables
                                                                            • Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption
                                                                              • Using character merchandising on healthful products
                                                                              • Advertising in an Era of Childhood Obesity

                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                  • Cutting back on advertising
                                                                                    • Parents of obese or overweight children seek information from various media
                                                                                      • Figure 16: Assessment of sources of health information for children—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                    • Magazine advertising
                                                                                      • Television advertising
                                                                                        • McDonald’s Happy Meal: focus on health and fitness
                                                                                          • Figure 17: McDonald’s Happy Meal—health, 2007
                                                                                          • Figure 18: McDonald’s Happy Meal—fitness, 2007
                                                                                        • Burger King revamps Kids’ Meals
                                                                                          • Figure 19: Burger King Kids’ Meal—cartoon, 2008
                                                                                          • Figure 20: Burger King Kids’ Meal—prizes, 2008
                                                                                      • The Sedentary Lifestyles of Kids and Teens

                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                          • Kids and teens have become sedentary creatures
                                                                                            • Screens replace physical activity for teens and kids
                                                                                              • Figure 21: Weekly usage of computer for school work, gaming, email, and other activities among teens, 2001-07
                                                                                              • Figure 22: Mean number of hours spent playing video games in last seven days, April 2007-May 2008
                                                                                            • Television is also a culprit
                                                                                              • Figure 23: Daily viewership of television and related screen media, by age, 2005
                                                                                              • Figure 24: Screen usage by children aged 6 and under, 2005
                                                                                          • Kids’ Exercising Habits

                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                              • How much exercise do kids get?
                                                                                                • Figure 25: Average amount of activity per week, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                                              • What kids are doing for exercise
                                                                                                • Figure 26: Sports and physical activities, by frequency of participation—children aged 6-11, Fall 2007
                                                                                            • Parents are Concerned about their Kids’ Eating and Exercising Habits

                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                • Teach your children
                                                                                                  • Figure 27: Parents’ opinions about children’s health issues, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2008
                                                                                                  • Figure 28: Parents’ opinions about children’s health issues, by HH income, December 2008
                                                                                                  • Figure 29: Parents’ opinions about children’s health issues, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                                                • Children teach themselves
                                                                                                  • Figure 30: Opinions about children’s eating and exercise habits, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2008
                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Parents’ opinions about their children’s eating and exercise habits, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                                              • Attitudes and Opinions about Childhood Obesity

                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                  • Parents’ attitudes towards obesity-related issues
                                                                                                    • Figure 32: Parents’ opinions about obesity-related issues, by HH income, December 2008
                                                                                                  • Whose fault is it?
                                                                                                    • Figure 33: Responsibility for kids’ overweight/obese condition, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2008
                                                                                                    • Figure 34: Responsibility for kids’ overweight/obese condition, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                                                • What Could Help?

                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                    • Help get my kids moving around!
                                                                                                      • Figure 35: Interest in programs or equipment to encourage more healthful eating or exercise, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2008
                                                                                                      • Figure 36: Interest in programs or equipment to encourage more healthful eating or exercise, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                                                    • Doing things together may prompt better habits
                                                                                                      • Figure 37: “Together” activities, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                                                  • Parental Scorecard

                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                      • Parents list the factors they consider important in maintaining their kids’ health
                                                                                                        • Figure 38: Importance of promoting a healthful lifestyle for children, December 2008
                                                                                                      • And rate their success at providing them
                                                                                                        • Figure 39: Comparing importance and success of promoting healthy lifestyles for children, December 2008
                                                                                                        • Figure 40: Parents’ success at helping their children live a healthful lifestyle, by HH income, December 2008
                                                                                                        • Figure 41: Parents’ success at helping their children live a healthful lifestyle, by child/ren’s age, December 2008
                                                                                                    • On the Front Lines: The Opinions of Parents with Obese/Overweight Kids

                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                        • Parents of overweight/obese kids are frustrated
                                                                                                          • Figure 42: Opinions about children’s health issues—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                                        • Obese/overweight kids may need more help in making decisions
                                                                                                          • Figure 43: Opinions about their children’s eating and exercise habits—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                                        • Opinions of parents with overweight/obese kids
                                                                                                            • Figure 44: Opinions about obesity-related issues—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                                          • The blame game
                                                                                                            • Figure 45: Responsibility for kids’ overweight/obese condition—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                                          • Seeking solutions
                                                                                                            • Figure 46: Interest in programs or equipment to encourage more healthful eating or exercise—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                                          • “Together” activities could help families with obese children—or not
                                                                                                            • Figure 47: “Together” activities—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                                          • A different parental scorecard
                                                                                                            • Figure 48: Comparing importance of promoting a healthful lifestyle for children and success at helping their children live a healthful lifestyle—all parents vs. parents of obese/overweight child/ren, December 2008
                                                                                                        • Cluster Analysis

                                                                                                            • The Confused and Concerned
                                                                                                              • Who they are
                                                                                                                • Opportunity
                                                                                                                  • Promoting Parents
                                                                                                                    • Who they are
                                                                                                                      • Opportunity
                                                                                                                        • Squeaky Wheelers
                                                                                                                          • Who they are
                                                                                                                            • Opportunity
                                                                                                                              • Cluster characteristics
                                                                                                                                • Figure 49: Child obesity clusters, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 50: Importance of promoting a healthful lifestyle for children, by child obesity clusters, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 51: Responsibility for kids’ overweight/obese condition, by child obesity clusters, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 52: Interest in programs or equipment to encourage more healthful eating or exercise, by child obesity clusters, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 53: Prevalence of health issues, by child obesity clusters, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 54: Parents’ opinions about obesity-related issues, by child obesity clusters, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 55: Parents’ opinions about children’s health issues, by child obesity clusters, December 2008
                                                                                                                              • Cluster demographics
                                                                                                                                • Figure 56: Child obesity clusters, by gender, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 57: Child obesity clusters, by age, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 58: Child obesity clusters, by age of youngest child, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 59: Child obesity clusters, by household income, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Figure 60: Child obesity clusters, by Hispanic origin, December 2008
                                                                                                                              • Cluster methodology
                                                                                                                              • Custom Consumer Groups

                                                                                                                                • Dads and moms have different perspectives on childhood obesity
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 61: Concern about childhood obesity for own child—dads vs. moms, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 62: Parents’ opinions about obesity-related issues—dads vs. moms, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 63: Responsibility for kids’ overweight/obese condition—dads vs. moms, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 64: Parents’ opinions about children’s health issues—dads vs. moms, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 65: Parents’ opinions about their children’s eating and exercise habits—dads vs. moms, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Appendix: Other Useful Consumer Tables

                                                                                                                                    • Figure 66: Parents’ opinions about children’s health issues, by age, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 67: Parents’ opinions about their children’s eating and exercise habits, by age, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 68: Parents’ opinions about their children’s eating and exercise habits, by HH income, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 69: Parents’ opinions about obesity-related issues, by age, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 70: Responsibility for kids’ overweight/obese condition, by age, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 71: Responsibility for kids’ overweight/obese condition, by HH income, December 2008
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 72: Interest in programs or equipment to encourage more healthful eating or exercise, by HH income, December 2008
                                                                                                                                • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                  Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                  • Advertising Research Foundation
                                                                                                                                  • American Beverage Association, The
                                                                                                                                  • American Dietetic Association (ADA)
                                                                                                                                  • American Obesity Association
                                                                                                                                  • American Psychological Association
                                                                                                                                  • Burger King Corporation
                                                                                                                                  • Department of Health
                                                                                                                                  • Federal Trade Commission
                                                                                                                                  • Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA)
                                                                                                                                  • Institute of Medicine
                                                                                                                                  • McDonald's U.S.A.
                                                                                                                                  • Nestlé USA
                                                                                                                                  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
                                                                                                                                  • Safeway Inc
                                                                                                                                  • Schnuck Markets, Inc
                                                                                                                                  • School Nutrition Association
                                                                                                                                  • Sony Corporation of America
                                                                                                                                  • TiVo Inc
                                                                                                                                  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
                                                                                                                                  • Unilever USA
                                                                                                                                  • Wegmans Food Markets, Inc
                                                                                                                                  • YMCA of the USA

                                                                                                                                  Children and Obesity - US - March 2009

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