MONDAY, Jan. 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are overweight or obese have significantly higher health-care costs than their normal weight peers, say researchers from Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
It is estimated that 30 percent of children in the United States are obese or overweight. And more than 80 percent of obese 12-year-olds will be overweight adults.
For the study, which appears in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics, researchers assessed 8,404 children aged 5 to 18 who attended well-care visits in 2002 and 2003 at a primary-care clinic in the Midwest.
The researchers divided the children into three categories sased on their body-mass index: obese (BMI in the 95th percentile or higher), overweight (BMI between the 85th and 94th percentile) and healthy weight (BMI lower than 85th percentile).
The researchers measured the health-care costs for each child for one year after the initial visit.
Eighteen percent of the children were overweight, and 22 percent were obese.
Of the obese children, only 43 percent were diagnosed with obesity, suggesting a significant rate of under-diagnosis. The researchers were more likely to diagnose certain children with obesity.
"When obesity was present, being female, older and insured by Medicaid were associated with a higher probability of having diagnosed obesity," the authors wrote.
The overweight and obese children used significantly more laboratory services than did their healthy weight peers. The increase was most notable for the children with diagnosed obesity.
"We speculate that this increase reflects primary-care provider compliance with expert committee recommendations for laboratory evaluation of obese children and adolescents," the authors wrote.
The researchers estimated that, compared with their healthy weight peers, obese children had increased annual health-care costs of an average of $172.
The American Obesity Association has more about childhood obesity.