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Mom and Little girl grocery shopping

A major public health crisis both nationally and internationally, childhood obesity is on the rise.

Directly associated with adult obesity, childhood obesity can affect someone’s health for the rest of their life and has been linked to numerous health problems. In order to take preventative action, a solid understanding of the causes and consequences of this problem is vital.

Here at Penn State's Center for Childhood Obesity Research, under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Savage Williams, we conduct important research that provides the evidence base needed to develop successful childhood obesity prevention and treatment programs. Focused primarily on programs that prevent the development of obesity during the first years of life, the Center puts much time and effort into exploring and addressing one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.

As researchers, we look to serve our community, both locally and globally, with innovative breakthroughs and significant discoveries that create change for the better.

of children are obese or overweight before they are 5.
of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 are obese.

These rates are even higher for economically disadvantaged children. Genes, epigenetics, the intrauterine environment, as well as, early life influences play a role in whether or not a child is obese.

Obesity prevention is critical because those who become overweight tend to have more serious comorbidities as obese adults, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers throughout the lifespan. The childhood obesity epidemic demands action, but action requires an evidence base to ensure optimal outcomes that are also cost-effective.

Multidisciplinary research is needed to develop effective and efficient behavioral interventions to prevent childhood obesity. These preventative interventions will need to produce changes at multiple levels, including individuals, families, schools, health care providers, communities and government policy.