Childhood Obesity


Our Efforts:

Healthy Kids New Mexico is a project of the New Mexico Department of Health that creates programs to give children the tools they need to live a healthy lifestyle.

Strategies to promote a healthy lifestyle include the BMI Surveillance System, Healthy Kids-Healthy Communities, the New Mexico Interagency Council and state-level health policies.

These efforts provide the ability to consistently and sustainably assess the prevalence of childhood obesity; identify at-risk populations; increase awareness of the issue; monitor trends over time; and create and evaluate efforts to reduce childhood obesity.

Health policies enacted include the School Wellness Policy and the "Nutrition: Competitive Food Sales Rule." State-administered programs include Safe Routes to School, Farm to Table, the Fruit and Vegetable School Snack Program, re-instated physical education and mandatory health education.


Our Goals:

Ensure that all early childhood care and education teachers have access to nutrition education materials for use with the children in their program.

This year, we will conduct a statewide survey on New Mexico children’s eating and physical activity behaviors. The results will provide statistics on actual behaviors, which will allow for targeted, educational reform efforts to be made toward our families, schools, and communities. These efforts include promoting healthy diet choices, increasing access to healthy foods, and the creation of safe places for physical activity.


Make a Difference:

What You Can Do To Make a Difference

New Mexicans can decrease childhood obesity by preparing and eating more meals together as a family, creating family routines and traditions involving physical activity, drinking more water and low-fat milk and eating a greater variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Individuals can also work together in their communities to create increased access to healthy food choices by supporting local farmers markets or developing community/school edible gardens.

In order to increase physical activity among all ages, individuals can work to implement safe walking/biking paths and support the use of outdoor school space for community use during non-school hours. Parents can encourage schools to strengthen school wellness policies.


New Mexico Data:

Trends in Obesity Rates for Youth New Mexico and the United States, 2001 - 2009

Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Body Weight

Obesity – Among high school students, the rate of obesity increased to 13.5%, from a low of 10.2% in 2003. Boys (18.3%) were more than two times as likely to be obese than girls (8.5%). There was no statistically significant variation for obesity by grade level (9th= 12.5%; 10th= 13.7%; 11th= 13.3%; 12th= 14.8%). The US rate (12.0%) was similar to the NM rate (13.5%).

Physical Activity – Among high school students, 23.4% met recommended levels of physical activity. The rate among boys (29.4%) was higher than among girls (17.5%). NM (23.4%) had a higher rate of meeting recommended levels of physical activity than the US (18.4%). Among middle school students, 30.2% met recommended levels of physical activity. The rate among boys (35.9%) was higher than among girls (24.6%). While the rate of meeting recommended levels of physical activity was higher among middle school students than high school students, there were no statistically significant differences by grade level in either middle school (6th=27.3%; 7th=32.7%; 8th=30.7%) or high school (9th=26.3%; 10th=22.8%; 11th=22.0%; 12th=21.8%).

  2001 2003 2005 2007 2009
Watched TV 3+ hours/day 37.7 34.2 28.6 27.9  
5 Servings of Fruits or Vegetable/Day, past 7 days   17.4 17.8 17.9  
Overweight * 13.4 13.3 14.6 13.5 14.6
Obese ** 10.2 10.2 12.0 10.9 13.5
Sometimes/often not enough food to eat   11.7 11.2 10.5  

Body mass index (BMI) is calculated from self reported height and weight.
* Overweight: ≥ 85th percentile and < 95th percentile of BMI by age and sex, based on historical reference data.
** Obese: ≥ 95th percentile of BMI by age and sex, based on historical reference data.


National Data:





The most current regional data available for child and adolescent obesity comes from the New Mexico Department of Health’s Youth Risk and Resiliency survey of high school students in 2009. The Northwest Region had the highest rates of high school students being overweight or obese (31.8%) followed by the Southeast Region at 29.9%. The lowest rate was found in Bernalillo County with a rate of 23.2%. The Northeast at 25.6% and the Southwest at 26.4% were in the middle.


Other Data:

Body Mass Index Surveillance System – 2010

In order to better understand and combat the problem of childhood obesity, the New Mexico Department of Health established an elementary school Body Mass Index (BMI) surveillance system in 2010. The purpose of the system is to assess the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity in New Mexico; identify at-risk populations in order to better allocate prevention resources; increase awareness among community members and policymakers on the problem of childhood obesity; monitor trends over time; and evaluate efforts to reduce childhood obesity.

Height and weight data were collected on 3,442 kindergarten and third grade students in elementary schools across the state. Using a standard data collection protocol, developed by UNM’s Prevention Research Center, surveyors measured children between mid-August and mid-November 2010. Results were weighted to provide state-level findings on the extent of childhood overweight and obesity in New Mexico and identify at-risk groups.

The national data most comparable to the New Mexico obesity surveillance data are data from the national health and nutrition examination survey (NHANES) which includes both interviews and physical examinations. The latest available data are from 2007-2008 which indicates that 17.4% of children ages 6-11 are obese.

Most states do not have a statewide obesity surveillance system for elementary students and even fewer have a standardized method for measuring height and weight. For children especially very young children inconsistent measurement particularly of height may result in fluctuating Body Mass Index calculation. In other words there is not a national system for collecting and calculating obesity rates among elementary school students. Consequently it is difficult to compare the obesity rates of New Mexico’s Kindergarten and third grade students to other states or to a national rate.

Childhood Obesity Differences by Grade

When analyzed by grade, statistically significant differences were noted between the percent of children in kindergarten and the percent of children in the third grade who were obese. The percent of children classified as obese rose from 13.2% of the kindergarten students to 22.6% of the third grade students. By the third grade a greater proportion of children were obese rather than overweight. The difference between kindergarten and third grade was also statistically significant for the combined overweight/obese category.