Kids in the U.S. have been getting fatter in recent decades, but a new study showing the geographical differences in childhood obesity trends paints a more comprehensive picture of where things are getting worse -- and better.
A study released online Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine looked at weight statistics among 46,707 U.S. children ages 10 to 17 in 2003, and among 44,101 children in 2007. In 2007, 31.6% of children were overweight, and 16.4% were obese, and overall childhood obesity rates went up 10% between those years. In 2007, the prevalence of obese children was highest in Mississippi (21.9%) and lowest in Oregon (9.6%). The prevalence of overweight children was highest again in Mississippi (44.5%) and lowest in Utah (23.1%). Between 2003 and 2007, obesity prevalence declined in Oregon by 32%.
Other trends emerged: The Southeast had the highest instances of obese and overweight kids. Arizona and Illinois showed sizable jumps in prevalence of obesity from 2003 to 2007, at 46% and 32%, respectively. The prevalence of all overweight kids didn't show any substantial change in the four years, but it went up 9% for girls. Prevalence of obesity in girls went up 18% in that time. Geographic patterns mirrored those of adults.
Researchers noted that odds of being overweight or obese increased relative to lower household income levels, less neighborhood access to parks and sidewalks, lower levels of physical activity, and more time spent watching TV or on the computer.
Black and Latino children had higher rates of obesity and greater chances of being overweight than their non-Latino white counterparts, after researchers adjusted for socioeconomic and behavioral factors, and state of residence.
In the study, the authors wrote, "...geographic analysis is crucial in that it allows individual states to know how they are performing on a key health indicator (such as childhood obesity) relative to other states and to the nation as a whole. Such information is vital to state-based health surveillance efforts and to the development and implementation of state-based policies and programs to tackle the growing epidemic of childhood obesity."
Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times