Pediatric obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI: a measure of weight in relation to height) over the 95th percentile for age and gender. Obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents. The 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that about 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese. Among pre-school age children 2-5 years of age, obesity increased from 5 to 10.4% between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008 and from 6.5 to 19.6% among 6-11 year olds. Among adolescents aged 12-19, obesity increased from 5 to 18.1% during the same period. Obese children and adolescents are more likely to become obese as adults. One study found that approximately 80% of children who were overweight at age 10–15 years were obese adults at age 25 years. If overweight begins before 8 years of age, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.
Obese children and adolescents are at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults. For example, during their youth, obese children and adolescents are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (such as high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes) than are other children and adolescents. These cardiovascular risk factors are referred to as the metabolic syndrome. It is important to medically monitor obese children and adolescents for features of the metabolic syndrome to help identify and address associated health concerns. Programs that teach families how to improve their eating and exercise patterns are very important in the management of pediatric obesity and the metabolic syndrome.