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Obesity is a medical term for an exceedance of recommended body mass index (BMI). Communities without safe spaces for physical activity and limited access to fresh food may have higher rates of obesity, which in turn increases risks of chronic conditions and poorer mental health outcomes.


Obesity occurs when an individual’s weight is higher than what is recommended for their height. Obesity is a common and serious chronic disease that impacts adults and children. It is estimated that 1 in 3 adults struggle with obesity. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 14.7 million children and adolescents with obesity in the U.S. Disparities also exist among racial and ethnic groups, with obesity being the most prevalent among children and adults of color.

Human Health Mechanism

Obesity may put individuals at risk for other serious health problems. Obesity is associated with the development of other chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, breathing and joint problems, poorer mental health outcomes, and some cancers. Note that because obesity is simply defined as being above a certain numerical BMI, it does not account for variations in body composition. In other words, BMI does not differentiate between muscle and fat, potentially misclassifying individuals with higher muscle mass as obese. Moreover, obesity measures do not consider the distribution of fat, which is important because visceral fat (around organs) pose greater health risks than subcutaneous fat.

Indicator Measurement

Data are available through the CDC PLACES public dashboard and are collected from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is a state-based, telephone interview survey. Adult obesity prevalence is calculated as the proportion of adults self-reported with a BMI equal to or greater than 30 based on weight and height.

Related Health Outcomes & Exposures

Food Insecurity, Walkability, Physical Inactivity, Heart Disease, Diabetes


Click here for References
  1. Obesity Data Source: CDC. CDC PLACES: Obesity. Data year 2020. Accessed April 2023.
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  3. CDC. New Adult Obesity Maps. Published September 21, 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  4. CDC. Why It Matters: Obesity is Common, Serious, and Costly. Published July 14, 2022. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  5. CDC. Obesity Basics. Published September 12, 2022. Accessed October 19, 2023.
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  8. Perkins&Will. Healthy Schools by Design. Published April 18, 2023. Accessed October 19, 2023.
  9. Purdy JC, Shatzel JJ. The hematologic consequences of obesity. Eur J Haematol. 2021;106(3):306-319. Doi:10.1111/ejh.13560