Does Childhood Obesity Prevention Only Work In Rich Kids?

sharma-obesity-pima-indian-kidsRecent publications suggest that the increase in childhood obesity seen in the US over the past several decades may finally be leveling off – an observation happily interpreted as a sign that not all is lost and that preventive measures may be working.

However, as a paper by Ashlesha Datar and Paul Chung, just published in JAMA pediatrics, these findings may be misleading in that they hide the increasing disparities in the prevalence of childhood obesity across ethnic and social groups.

The authors analysed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study kindergarten class (ECLS-K), consisting of two separate nationally representative cohorts recruited as kindergarteners during the 1998 to 1999 and 2010 to 2011 school years, which includes approximately 17,000 and 15,560 kindergarteners, respectively.

Between 1998 and 2010, with a nearly 20% overall increase in obesity prevalence, obesity decreased nonsignificantly for the highest quintile of socioeconomic class, increased nonsignificantly for the second-highest quintile, and increased significantly for the lowest three quintiles. The greatest increase was seen in non-Hispanic black kids.

Thus, the authors point out that not only have childhood obesity rates substantially increased during the time periods of this study, but also that this increase was accompanied by a substantial increase in socioeconomic disparities as obesity decreased in children with higher socioeconomic backgrounds but increased among children with lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Perhaps our childhood prevention measures are not reaching the kids who need them the most?

Edmonton, AB