Overweight Children a Product of Socioeconomic Status?

ScienceDaily posted an article this week reporting that nearly one in five children in Sweden is overweight. Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Karolinska Institutet conducted the first national study examining obesity in school children. The study indicates that 17% of children in Sweden are overweight. The study also found that there is a link between low socioeconomic status and overweight children.

In the United States, programs and studies have been implemented in schools to combat the growing concern of overweight and obese children. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recently published an article describing the results of a clinical trial. The study was conducted in middle schools with a high enrollment of minority youth from low-income families and spanned over a course of three years. The researchers found that a school-based intervention could decrease the obesity rate in students at highest risk for diabetes, those who started out overweight or obese in sixth grade. “The study shows that a school-based program can help lower obesity and certain risk factors for type 2 diabetes in youth at high risk for the disease,” said Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., who is the Director of the NIDDK.

Similarly, the researchers in the Swedish study believe that it is important to identify groups who are at greatest risk and who would benefit from intervention. Their study indicated that families of lower socioeconomic status had a higher incidence of overweight children. In Sweden, low-income families are more likely to live in smaller towns and rural areas. Agneta Sjöberg, a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy concludes that “On the basis of our results, we think it would be beneficial to run health campaigns and work preventatively in smaller towns and rural areas.”

To understand how physicians in the US calculate children’s BMIs, try The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) online tool for calculating Body Mass Index (BMI) for children.


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