Policy Brief

Childhood Overweight Policy Brief

1,000 Days
World Health Organizatoin
Thousand Days
Publication Year:
May 04, 2020
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger


WHAT’S AT STAKE In 2012, the World Health Assembly Resolution 65.6 endorsed a Comprehensive implementation plan for maternal, infant and young child nutrition, which specified six global nutrition targets for 2025. This policy brief covers the fourth target: no increase in childhood overweight. 1 The purpose of this policy brief is to increase attention to, investment in, and action for a set of cost-effective interventions and policies that can help Member States and their partners prevent continued increases in overweight in children and ensure that the target is met.


There has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of children under 5 years of age who are overweight. According to the new 2013 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank estimates, between 2000 and 2013, the number of overweight children worldwide increased from 32 million to 42 million. The prevalence of childhood overweight is increasing in all regions of the world, particularly in Africa and Asia. Between 2000 and 2013, the prevalence of overweight in children under 5 years of age increased from 1% to 19% in southern Africa, and from 3% to 7% in south-east Asia. In terms of regional breakdowns in numbers of overweight children in 2013, there were an estimated 18 million overweight children under 5 years of age in Asia, 11 million in Africa and 4 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. Low levels of overweight in children under 5 years of age were observed in the regions of Latin America and the Caribbean, with little change over the last 13 years. Nevertheless, countries with large populations, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and the Plurinational State of Bolivia, observed levels of 7% and higher. If these increasing trends continue, it is estimated that the prevalence of overweight in children under 5 years of age will rise to 11% worldwide by 2025, up from 7% in 2012.


Children who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and other respiratory problems, sleep disorders and liver disease. They may also suffer from psychological effects, such as low self-esteem, depression and social isolation. Childhood overweight and obesity also increase the risk of obesity, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), premature death and disability in adulthood. Finally, the economic costs of the escalating problem of childhood overweight and obesity are considerable, both in terms of the enormous financial strains it places on health-care systems and in terms of lost economic productivity.


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