Tennessee is one of only three states where obesity among preschoolers is increasing rather than decreasing.

Children and adolescents who are obese may be at increased risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Stroke, liver & gallbladder disease
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gynecological problems
  • Cancers (breast, endometrial & colon)
  • Asthma
  • Psychological problems (anxiety & depression)
  • Low self-esteem & social problems

Physical Activity and Screen Time: 

  • In Knox County, Tennessee, only 1 in 3 middle schoolers and only 1 in 5 high schoolers get the recommended 1 hour of physical activity in each day. 
  • In Tennessee, only about 21% of high school students get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, and about 45% of Tennessee high schoolers have high computer usage and about 24% have high TV usage.  
  • Around 20% of high school students in Tennessee are active for less than 1 hour per week.
  • Nationally, children and teens in the United States, ages 8-18 years old, spend over 7 hours each day in front of screens, like televisions, computers, and gaming devices.  


  • About 14% of Tennessee’s children are considered food insecure.  
  • In Tennessee, about 17% of high school students skip breakfast, 25% of high schoolers have high soda consumption, and about 11% don’t eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Over 40% of Tennessee adolescents drink at least 1 sugary drinks, like soft drinks, every day. Experts recommend 1 per week. 
  • Nationally, 93% of U.S. children under the age of 18 years old do not eat the daily recommended amount of vegetables. French fries and chips make up 1/3 of the vegetables that children eat.
  • 40% of calories for U.S. kids under 18 years of age come from added sugars and solid fats. About ½ of those empty calories come from soda, fruit drinks, desserts, pizza, and whole milk. 
  • Around 13% of calories for U.S. teens come from sugar drinks like soda and juice. 

Overweight and Obesity: 

  • In 2017 in Knox County, 19.2% or 1 in 5 children 12-19 years old, 14.9% of children 6-11 years old, and 12.3% of children 2-5 years old were obese.  
  • In Tennessee, 20.8%, or 1 in 5, children ages 10-17 have obesity which puts Tennessee 6th out of all 50 states for the highest rate of childhood obesity.  
  • Nationally, obesity affected 19.3%, or 1 in 5 children in 2017. This is over 14.4 million children 1-5 in the United States suffering with obesity. In addition, 16.2% of 10-17 year olds in the U.S. had obesity in 2019. 
  • Medical costs in the US for children who are overweight and obese add up to $3 billion annually. 
  • Children who are obese are more likely to become obese when they are adults. 

What Leads to Obesity? 

Obesity is caused by a combination of things, like genetics, the types and amounts of food and drinks people consume, not getting enough activity, medication use, adverse childhood experiences, unhealthy food and activity environments, like lack of access to safe, well-maintained places for physical activity or lack of access to healthy foods and drinks, and unhealthy food marketing and promotion.