Children’s Weight

In 2009, state agencies with Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs were required to implement redesigned WIC food packages to better align with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and infant feeding practice guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics. This change led to increased availability of healthier foods and beverages in authorized WIC stores and improved dietary quality among families who enrolled in WIC. In addition to the food packages, WIC helps to establish successful long-term breastfeeding, provides participants with a wider variety of food, and offers WIC state agencies greater flexibility in prescribing food packages to adapt to participants with cultural food preferences.

Figure 12: BMI for children age 10-17 years

Data Source: National Survey of Children’s Health, 2019.

How is New Mexico Doing?

Sixteen percent of NM children participating in WIC were obese in 2018. The rate has declined by a prevalence of almost three percent since 2010.

Breastfeeding also continues to increase in New Mexico, and this is a protective factor, independently predictive of healthier weight across the life course. Among WIC program participants, over 83% breastfed in 2019, and this compares favorably to the statewide rate of 89.5% for all NM births (NM PRAMS, 2019).

In 2019, 20.7% of NM youth ages 10-17 years were overweight compared to 16.2% in 2015; 13.3% were obese, lower than the 15.7% reported in 2015. “Overweight” means the 85th-95th percentile on a growth chart, and “obese” means at or above the 95th percentile. NM ranked 23rd among all states in for childhood obesity, 2018-2019

How does New Mexico compare to the nation?

In 2019, 15.2% of the nation’s youth were overweight and 16.0% were obese. NM youth were more likely to be overweight (20.7%) and less likely to be obese (13.3%) compared to U.S. youth.

What does this mean?

Increases in childhood obesity have resulted in dramatic increases in youth-onset diabetes. Nearly 60% of overweight children ages 5-10 years had at least one metabolic risk factor for heart disease and stroke, including elevated total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin and high blood pressure. Overweight and obese children are also more likely to be overweight as adults and suffer from chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. Obesity also affects the mental health of children with some studies reporting that severely obese children report a lower quality of life and obese children are more likely than non-obese children to feel sad, lonely and nervous.