Welcome to the Curriculum

The situation is staggering

The United States is currently in the midst of an epidemic of obesity and overweight.* Between the 1970s and 2012, the prevalence of obesity rose from 5% to 8.4% in children ages 2 to 5 and from 6.5% to 17.7% in children ages 6 to 11.1 Poor diet and inactivity are close to overtaking cigarette smoking as the lead cause of preventable death.2 Should the rate of obesity continue to grow, the country faces the possibility that future generations will have shorter life spans than their parents.3


Defining the Problem

In a country where our cultural and ethnic makeup is increasingly diverse, the burden of the obesity epidemic falls disproportionately on minority and low-income populations. Black non-Hispanic and Hispanic populations have obesity rates of 49.5% and 39.3% (age adjusted), respectively, in comparison with a 34.3% rate among white non-Hispanics.4 Children in families with incomes under the poverty level have obesity rates 92.7% greater than in families with incomes 400-499% of the poverty threshold.5

It has never been more critical for public health professionals to be able to provide effective nutrition counseling to children and adults from multiple cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, and socioeconomic settings.

To do this, public health/MCH professionals must:

  • Stay informed of the latest nutrition information
  • Have a working knowledge of the cultures of their clients
  • Be aware of how culture influences both their own attitudes and behaviors and those of their clients
  • Be able to deliver nutrition counseling that is culturally and linguistically sensitive while aligning with current best practices

Addressing the Problem

This curriculum provides tools to assist public health/Maternal and Child Health (MCH) professionals in delivering culturally and linguistically competent nutrition education and counseling by:

  • Summarizing the state of nutrition among children and youth
  • Exploring the role of culture in child and adolescent overweight/obesity and related issues
  • Providing instruction on culturally and linguistically competent, family-centered strategies to promote healthy eating

This curriculum will:

  • Provide current nutrition information
  • Explain how culture affects nutrition choices
  • Detail culturally competent, family-centered strategies to address nutrition with diverse families and communities
  • Strengthen leadership competencies by demonstrating a strengths-based approach to communicating with families and working within diverse communities
  • Build skills by explaining how culture can promote healthy eating

Core Modules

  • Learning About Nutrition
  • Understanding Culture and Nutrition
  • Opening a Dialogue
  • Building Conversations
  • Engaging Communities
  • Putting It Into Practice

Online Resources

  • Online Toolkit
  • Feedback


* The American Medical Association's Working Group on Managing Childhood Obesity recommends that individuals from the ages of 2 to 18 years, with a BMI ≥ 95th percentile for age and sex, or BMI exceeding 30 (whichever is smaller), should be considered obese; and (ii) individuals with BMI ≥ 85th percentile, but < 95th percentile for age and sex, should be considered overweight. However, the terms "overweight" and "obesity" are frequently used interchangeably in the literature to describe this group of children and adolescents.


1 Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. 2014. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011–2012. Journal of the American Medical Association 311(8):806–814. 2 Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000. JAMA. 2004; 291(10):1238-1245. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1238. 3 Institute of Medicine. 2012. Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, January 2010. 5 Healthy People 2020. Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity: Latest Data (Data Source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), CDC/NCHS).