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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. What do you mean by “childhood overweight”? Is that the same as “childhood obesity”?

A: These terms often mean the same thing. Childhood “obesity” is the more common term used in newspapers, radio and other media. However, childhood overweight is the accepted clinical term. This is similar to “high blood pressure” (common term) and “hypertension” (clinical term). A child under 18 is defined clinically as overweight if they are above the 95th percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI) for their age and gender. A child is at risk for overweight if their BMI percentile falls between the 85th – 95th percentiles for their age and gender. We use the term obesity if we are referring to the general condition, and overweight if we are speaking in medical terms or referring to data. If this doesn’t help answer your question, click here.

Q. Why is childhood obesity called an epidemic?

A. An epidemic is defined as “an outbreak or unusually high occurrence of a disease or illness in a population or area” (Source). The rates of childhood overweight (see the previous question) have tripled nationally since the 1970s. State-by-state data on the rates of adult obesity go back to the 1980s and when viewed over time, they provide a clear picture of an epidemic in action. Go here to see this for yourself.

Q. Is there an epidemic of childhood obesity in Chicago?

A: Kindergarten-aged Chicago children have been found to be overweight at over twice the national average, and children in some Chicago communities have been found to be overweight at 3-4 times the national average. Click here to see these data.

Q. What is causing the epidemic?

A. There is not one single answer to this question. From genetics to politics, or from unhealthy cultural norms to too many hours spent in front of a television, there are a seemingly endless number of factors that are contributing to the rapid spread of obesity. At the simplest level it is obviously a matter of more calories consumed than expended. However few (if any) children, families or communities can control their environments enough to be immune from all the potential risk factors for obesity. That is why broad collaborations like CLOCC are thought to be needed; to facilitate ecologic approaches.

Q. I just found the CLOCC website and want to get involved. Where do I start?

A. At a minimum, please let us know you found us. Complete the Join Mailing List form so we can include you in mailings, invite you to participate in events or projects, include information about your organization and its programs in our reports to other partners, etc. Attending a Quarterly Meeting is another excellent way to get involved. However, the most meaningful way might be on your block. Search for information about programs and resources available in the community in which you work or live.

Q. I am concerned about (my / an) overweight child; what can I do about it?

A. Talking about a child’s weight can be a very difficult thing to do and it is very important to be aware of the way they feel about their body. Set a positive example, don’t focus too much on a child’s actual weight without reinforcing healthy daily behaviors, and make changes in the child’s environment that might support these behaviors. CLOCC's 5-4-3-2-1 Go! recommendations provide more information on the kinds of healthy daily behaviors that can lead to weight control. Also, search for a program in the child’s neighborhood that might fit into the family schedule. Be sure to include the whole family in changing behaviors and (if appropriate) have the child’s pediatrician involved in addressing your concerns.

If you have a question that is not answered here, please contact CLOCC at

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CLOCC: Taking on childhood obesity in Chicago