WASHINGTON, –(HISPANIC PR WIRE – U.S. Newswire)–April 30, 2003–African-American and Hispanic children in the United States 6 to 11 years of age are significantly more likely than non-Hispanic white children the same age to be overweight while Asian-American-Pacific Islander children are slightly less likely to be so, according to a new nationwide study sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Excess weight in children and adolescents is determined by growth charts by age and sex.
Using data from the household health interview component of AHRQ’s 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the researchers found that 43.9 percent of the African-American children were overweight, as were 37.4 percent of Hispanic children. The researchers also found that 21.1 percent of non-Hispanic white children and 19.6 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children had excess weight.
But the picture changes once children reach adolescence (ages 12 to 17). As children, African-Americans were the most likely to be overweight and Hispanics the second most likely. But as adolescents, the relative positions reversed. Findings indicate that 15.7 percent of Hispanic adolescents and 13.4 percent of African-American adolescents were overweight, as were 9.4 percent of non-Hispanic white adolescents.
In addition, the researchers found that regardless of race or ethnicity, boys age 6 to 11 years ran a higher risk of becoming overweight than girls, as did children whose parents had a high school education or less, and children from poor families. Adolescent overweight was associated with being uninsured or having public insurance coverage such as Medicaid. Such adolescents were roughly twice as likely to be overweight as adolescents with private health insurance.
According to the study’s leader, Jennifer Haas, M.D., weight reduction programs that take these factors into account, as well as children’s and adolescents’ culture, dietary habits, and lifestyles, may be more successful than those that do not.
Concern about youth overweight and obesity in the United States is increasing as the rates of these problems continue to soar. According to the latest data (2000) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 15 percent of children (ages 6 to 11) and adolescents (ages 12 to 17) overall are overweight.
The study, titled “The Association of Race, Socioeconomic Status and Health Insurance with the Prevalence of Overweight among Children and Adolescents,” is in the April 28, 2003 issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Dr. Haas was with the University of California, San Francisco at the time of the study. She is currently with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston
Bob Isquith, 301-594-6394
Farah Englert, 301-594-6372