Childhood Obesity Rates

Denver Public Health, Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, community partners and city agencies have convened a collective effort to address childhood obesity in Denver. It’s a major concern that one in six children are obese before reaching adulthood. Obese adults face many long-term health consequences, and keeping children at a healthy weight will prevent many from facing these health issues. This health indicator provides information on obesity rates among children in Denver. It also explains work happening to increase the percentage of children in Denver at a healthy weight.

Trends in Obese and Overweight among Chrilden and Youth age 2-17 Years of Age

What are we measuring?

Since the 2008/2009 school year, Denver Public Health has used body mass index (BMI) and BMI percentiles for students attending Denver Public Schools. Using nurse measurements, the department calculates what percent of students are overweight (85th to 94th percentile) and what percent are obese (95th percentile or above). Denver’s goal is to meet or exceed the Healthy People (HP) 2020 age-specific obesity goals (shown in green). This will help Denver achieve its Community Health Improvement Plan goal around reducing childhood obesity’s impact in Denver.

Why do we measure this?

Obese children are more likely to become obese adults who face many health problems, including higher risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Following childhood obesity rates and trends in early childhood (2 - 5 years old), middle childhood (6 - 11 years old) and adolescence (12 - 18 years old) helps identify where age-appropriate prevention and intervention approaches can limit childhood weight gain.

What is the story behind the graph?

The graph shows:

  • Promising trends. The percentage of overweight and obese children appears consistent in each age group over the past five years, an important improvement after decades of year over year increases.
  • The progressive nature of childhood obesity in Denver. The percentage of overweight and obese children increases substantially as children get older.
  • The power of prevention. The opportunity for early prevention efforts, like establishing healthy eating habits early in a child’s life, exist to prevent children from ever reaching an unhealthy weight.

Other information not shown in this graph but presented in the 2014 Health of Denver Report shows the strong link between poverty and childhood obesity. A comprehensive, collaborative approach focused on prevention and equal access to resources – regardless of income – should be the main way to decrease childhood obesity rates in Denver.

What works to reduce childhood obesity rates?

  • Increasing the availability of healthy foods and beverages and limiting unhealthy food and beverages.
  • Restricting marketing of unhealthy food and beverages.
  • Incentivizing healthy choices. For example, “double bucks” make healthy food more affordable by increasing the value Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit when buying fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Increasing opportunities for physical activity for children, like supporting mandatory daily Physical Education classes.
  • Increasing safe routes and environments for children to walk or bike to/from school.
  • Supporting public policies, like adding a sugar warning label, to educate families on the amount of added sugar in drinks and associated health risks.
  • Using media to encourage individual health behavior change.

What strategies are being used to reduce childhood obesity rates in Denver?

Developing policies and programs to promote healthy food and beverage options by building awareness and encouraging behavior change.

Ensuring that all children have access to daily physical activity opportunities to help prevent childhood obesity.

  • Be Healthy Denver includes strategies to increase opportunities for children to be physically active by 1) prioritizing daily physical education for all students, and 2) strengthening physical activity standards and guidelines in Denver’s licensed child care centers.
  • Denver Public Schools is evaluating and improving the quality of its physical education offerings, as well as promoting the connection of physical activity to academic success.
  • Denver Public Health is working with numerous partners to support school level and city level policies that support walking and riding a bike to school.

Who are our partners?

Learn more or partner with us

For more information, please contact

Additional sources of data related to the measurement being monitored

Last Updated 10/2/2017