The Costs of Childhood Obesity

State Comptroller DiNapoli released a report in October of 2012 on the soaring health care costs related to childhood obesity.  Since 1980 the rates of childhood obesity have nearly tripled in the United States, and 17% of youth under the age of 18 are obese in NY according to the NYS Department of Health (DOH).

Starting in 2007 schools were required by SED law to report body mass index (BMI ) of students in grades K, 2, 4, 7, and 10 to the DOH. The data collected by DOH, in counties other than NYC, showed that on average about 20% of students in grades 7 and 10 were obese and 36% were overweight or obese.  The report showed student weight status by county and listed Oneida as having the highest percent of overweight or obese students.


Childhood obesity often leads to adulthood weight and health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, and some forms of cancer as well as psychosocial problems.  Obesity has significant financial consequences and the Office of the State Comptroller estimates that in NY, $327 million was spent in 2011 on children’s medical costs related to obesity.

When looking at both causes and solutions to the childhood obesity problem both SED and DOH come into play.  SED has guidelines set for school meals, which are getting healthier, but does not set them for competitive foods, which are foods and beverages sold outside of the school meal program such as in vending machines and school stores. Schools can set these guidelines as part of their required wellness policy.  SED also has regulations the require schools to provide physical education classes for all students that meet  a minimum frequency and duration by grade level.  Audits have showed that many schools are out of compliance on these regulations.  DOH has several programs that are working with schools and communities to address these issues.  One such grant is the Healthy Schools NY program, which funds coordinators to work on policy changes in schools to increase the quantity and quality of Physical activity as well as healthful eating in schools.  More information on this grant can be found at

A press release from the Comptroller’s office can be found at and the complete report is on the state website at


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