The University Record, December 17, 2001

Obesity in children is on the rise

By Colleen Newvine
News and Information Services

Researchers at the School of Public Health (SPH) and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) found sharp increases in the proportion of overweight children 1986–1998.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, weight increased significantly and steadily among American children 4–12 years old, particularly African-American and Hispanic children. In addition, overweight children were heavier in 1998 than in 1986.

This study, written by Richard Strauss of UMDNJ and Harold Pollack at SPH, concludes that treatment strategies tailored to children’s cultural settings, as well as other policy interventions, are needed to increase physical activity and encourage healthy eating among children.

Some facts from the study, based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth:

  • In 1998, 21.5 percent of African-American children, 21.8 percent of Hispanic children and 12.3 percent of white children were overweight, as defined by a number of sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics growth curves.

  • Children in high income white families had lower rates of obesity while those in high income African-American families had a greater likelihood of being obese. There did not appear to be a similar correlation for Hispanic children.

  • Sharpest increases in childhood weight were observed in boys, African-Americans, Hispanics, and those living in southern states.

  • Growth in overweight children appears linked with important social trends such as decreased exercise and increased consumption of high-calorie foods.

    For more information on the School of Public Health, visit the Web at www.sph.umich.edu.