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Prevalence of Childhood Overweight and Obesity in Chicago

NEW - On February 28, 2013, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Public Schools released a prevalence report on Overweight and Obesity for Chicago Public Schools Students - 2010-2011. This includes prevalence data for CPS students at kindergarten entry, at sixth grade, and at ninth grade. It also includes prevalence data for CPS students organized by community area. You can view the report here.


This page summarizes what is known about the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in the U.S., Illinois, and Chicago. This information can be downloaded as a fact sheet here.

Prevalence measures how often a condition occurs in a given population during a specific time period. When comparing childhood overweight/obesity prevalence across locations and population groups, age-range; time period, measurement method and population characteristics should be as similar as possible.

The figures below present available prevalence data for children among a variety of sub-populations. When appropriate, comparisons are made between children in Chicago and other locations. 

Nationally, child overweight and obesity are on a slight upward trend.



Young children in Chicago have considerably higher obesity rates than
low-income children of a similar age in the U.S. and Illinois.



Obesity and overweight in middle childhood years in Illinois and Chicago are higher than the
national average. Obesity among Chicago 8 - 10 year olds has declined between 2003-4 and 2008-9. Overweight has declined for Chicago and Illinois children from 2003-4 and 2008-9.


Chicago teens are overweight and obese at higher rates than Illinois teens.


Community Area Snapshots

CLOCC and the Sinai Urban Health Initiative (SUHI) have worked with several Chicago communities to collect health and health behavior data. Data for these communities is presented below.

Chicago communities for which we have data have extremely high overweight and obesity
prevalence rates. The predominately white community in the sample had much lower rates
compared to other communities which are predominantly Black and Hispanic.



Humboldt Park children of all age grouping have experienced significant declines in
overweight and obesity over time. Humboldt Park child obesity rates are
significantly higher than the U.S. average for 2008.


Englewood children of all age groups have very high obesity prevalence.
In Englewood, obesity is highest among young children aged 2 to 5.



Children in Pilsen have a much higher obesity prevalence rate than U.S. children of similar ages.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is prevalence?
Prevalence is an epidemiological concept used to estimate how common a condition is in a particular population during a specific time period. Prevalence is calculated by taking the total number of cases in the population, divided by the number of individuals in the population. Prevalence is expressed as a percentage.

How is overweight and obesity status determined for children?
For children and youth up to 19 years of age, weight status is based on Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile for age and sex.* A child is overweight with a BMI at the 85th-94.9th percentile. A child is obese with a BMI >95th percentile. (BMI is a measurement that compares weight to height (or for children <2 years old, weight to length). The formula is: weight in pounds/ (height (or length) in inches x height in inches) x 703. Percentile indicates how a child compares to other children the same age and sex. So a child >95th percentile for BMI has a BMI higher than 95 of every 100 similar children.)

A word of caution: Overweight and obesity prevalence increases as children age. Therefore, comparing prevalence rates for children of similar ages is important.  U.S. children have experienced a rapid increase in overweight/obesity in recent years. Thus time period comparisons are important to interpret trends. Parent/self-report of child weight status tends to underreport overweight/obesity. Weight status obtained from direct measurement is more accurate. Therefore, the method for determining weight status can be important in the interpretation of prevalence rate comparisons. Certain sub-populations including low income, Hispanic and Black children have higher rates of obesity. Therefore knowing the characteristics of the population for which prevalence data are presented will be important in interpretation of prevalence rates.


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CLOCC: Taking on childhood obesity in Chicago