Obesity among South Carolina children differs by age, gender, and race

Research Activities, June 2011, No. 370

Excess weight and obesity are an evolving national crisis for America's children. Past comparisons of South Carolina and national samples had suggested that South Carolina children were heavier than American children generally. However, a new study using 2006 data finds that this is no longer the case. The prevalence of obesity among South Carolina children aged 2 to 5 years was 14 percent, 6 to 11 years was 21.7 percent, and 12 to 19 years was 17.3 percent. Among children nationally, these age groups had obesity rates of 13.9 percent, 18.8 percent, and 17.4 percent, respectively. None of these differences were significant.

Some significant differences did emerge when gender and race were factored in. Obesity levels in white boys in South Carolina remain below the national prevalence of obesity through all age groups. Obesity levels in black boys and white girls in South Carolina are above the national levels until they reach adolescence. Black girls in South Carolina are below the national level of obesity at the younger age groups, but exceed it during adolescence. The small sample size of Hispanic children precluded any significant findings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children between the ages of 2 and 19 are considered obese if their body mass index is higher than the 95th percentile. The study sample included 989 South Carolina children and adolescents seen in 6 practices associated with the South Carolina Pediatric Practice Research Network. Considerable variation in percentage of obesity (from 7.5 percent to 27 percent) was seen within the six practices.

The researchers believe that the variation by practice and age groups demonstrates that it is important for practices to make a measured assessment of their patients rather than relying on national or regional data. This study was partly supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15679).

See "Prevalence of obesity in children: Comparing children from the South Carolina Pediatric Practice Research Network with a national sample," by James R. Roberts, M.D., M.P.H., Shannon A. Kennedy, M.D., Paul M. Darden, M.D., and William T. Basco, Jr. M.D., M.S. in Clinical Pediatrics 49(8), pp. 750-755, 2010.

Current as of June 2011
Internet Citation: Obesity among South Carolina children differs by age, gender, and race: Research Activities, June 2011, No. 370. June 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jun11/0611RA21.html