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South Carolina Medicaid: Childhood obesity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States and puts children and adolescents at risk for poor health.
Teen daughter cooks with caregiver

Childhood obesity in South Carolina

According to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the childhood obesity rate in South Carolina is one of the worst in the country. In State of Childhood Obesity: Prioritizing Children’s Health During the Pandemic, opens new window, researchers reported that:2

  • More than 15%, or one in seven children between the ages of 10 and 17, have obesity in South Carolina
  • South Carolina has the third-highest obesity rate for this age group in the United States
  • South Carolina as a whole has an obesity rate of 22 percent, which is well above the national average of about 15 percent


Behaviors that influence excess weight gain include:

  • Eating high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages
  • Medication use
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Sleep routines
  • Sending too much time watching television or other screen devices

To help children grow and maintain a healthy weight, the CDC recommends:

  • Consuming healthy foods
  • Being physically active

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, opens new window recommends a child or teenager:

  • Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, a variety of lean protein foods, and low-fat/fat-free dairy products
  • Limit foods and beverages with added sugars, solid fats, or sodium

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, opens new window recommends children between the ages of:

  • 6 and 17 years do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day
  • 3 and 5 years should be physically active during the day for growth and development

Health risks

Children who have obesity are more likely to have:3

  • Breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea
  • Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (e.g., heartburn)
  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes
  • Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort
  • Low self-esteem and lower self-reported quality of life
  • Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression
  • Social problems such as bullying and stigma

Future health risks

Children who have obesity are more likely to:

  • Become adults with obesity, which is associated with an increased risk of several serious health conditions (e.g., heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer)
  • Have more severe risk factors in adulthood

Child wellness visits

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, talk to your child’s doctor. You can use your child’s wellness visit to talk about your concerns. Children between the ages of 3 and 20 should see their doctor at least once each year.

Learn more about when to take your child for a wellness visit


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