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Racial Disparities Seen in Obesity Prevalence in Children

In California, prevalence has fallen in some groups but plateaued or increased among others

MONDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Among children in California, the prevalence of high body mass index (BMI) has declined among some groups, but ethnic/racial disparities exist, according to research published online Aug. 16 in Pediatrics.

Kristine A. Madsen, M.D., of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed BMI screening records of 8,283,718 fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-grade students between 2001 and 2008 in California to investigate trends in high BMI prevalence and disparities among racial/ethnic groups.

Among girls, the researchers found that the prevalence of BMIs above three out of four BMI cut points grew for blacks and American Indians through 2008; plateaued for Hispanics after 2005; and peaked in non-Hispanic whites in 2005 before declining to 2001 levels. There were no increases in Asian girls. For boys, prevalence peaked in 2005 and then declined to 2001 levels for all cut points for non-Hispanic whites; declined after 2005 (for the three lowest cut points) but remained above 2001 levels for Hispanics and Asians; and peaked in 2007 for American Indians, declining thereafter only for BMI at or above the 95th percentile. Prevalence disparities were greatest for BMI at or above the 99th percentile in 2008, with prevalence of 4.9 and 4.6 percent for American Indian and black girls, respectively, compared to 1.3 percent for non-Hispanic white girls.

"On the basis of statewide California data, prevalence of high BMI is declining for some groups but has not declined for American Indian and black girls. These trends portend greater disparities over time, particularly in severe obesity. Interventions and policies that are tailored to the highest risk groups should be pursued," the authors write.

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