Increased obesity in children living in rural communities of Louisiana
Williamson DA, Champagne CM, Han H, Harsha D, Martin CK, Newton RL, Ryan DH, Sothern MS, Stewart TM and Webber LS
Objective. Rates of obesity among children have been rising in recent years. Information on the prevalence of obesity in children living in rural communities is needed. We report the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children enrolled in grades 4 to 6 who live in rural areas of Louisiana, USA. Methods and Procedures. These data were collected as baseline assessment for the Louisiana (LA) Health project. Height, weight, and estimates of body fat (using body impedance analysis) were collected on 2 709 children. Average age was 10.5 years and the sample composition was 57.3% girls, 61.7% African-American, 36.0% Caucasian, and 2.3% other minority. A majority of children (77%) met the criterion for poverty status. Results. The distribution of body mass index (BMI) percentile was highly skewed toward obesity. The most frequent BMI percentile scores were 98th and 99th percentile. Using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) norms, the overall prevalence of obesity was 27.4%, and for overweight was 45.1%, of which 17.7% were between the 85th and 95th percentile. The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity were much higher than the national norm and this increased prevalence was observed in both genders and in Caucasian and African-American children. Discussion. The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity was found to be much higher in rural and primarily poor (77%) children living in Louisiana when compared with national norms. This observation suggests that rural children from Louisiana may be experiencing an epidemic of obesity that exceeds national prevalence estimates.
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