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Prevalence of overweight and obese children between 1989 and 1998: population based series of cross sectional studies

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7282.326 (Published 10 February 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:326
  1. Peter Bundred (peterb{at}liv.ac.uk), reader in primary carea,
  2. Denise Kitchinerb, consultant paediatric cardiologist,
  3. Iain Buchanc, specialist registrar in public health
  1. a University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GB
  2. b Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust, Liverpool L12 7AP
  3. c West Hertfordshire Health Authority, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3ER
  1. Correspondence to: P Bundred
  • Accepted 9 November 2000

Abstract

Objective: To determine trends in weight, height, and body mass index in children between 1989 and 1998.

Design: Retrospective series of cross sectional studies of routinely collected data.

Setting: Primary care in the Wirral Health Authority.

Participants: 35 662 infants aged 1-3 months (representing 88% of live births) and 28 768 children aged 2.9-4.0 years. 21 582 infants and children (25.1%) were excluded because of missing or inaccurate data.

Main outcome measures: Weight, height, sex, and age routinely recorded by health visitors. Height, weight, and body mass index standardised for age and sex. SD score >1.04 for body mass index (>85th centile) was defined as overweight and >1.64 (>95th centile) as obese. Body mass index was not calculated in infants as it is difficult to interpret.

Results: From 1989 to 1998 there was a highly significant increasing trend in the proportion of overweight children (14.7% to 23.6%; P<0.001) and obese children (5.4% to 9.2%; P<0.001). There was also a highly significant increasing trend in the mean SD score for weight (0.05 to 0.29; P<0.001) and body mass index (−0.15 to 0.31; P<0.001) but not height. Infants showed a small but significantly increasing trend in mean SD score for weight (−0.17 to −0.05; P=0.005).

Conclusions: From 1989 to 1998 there was a highly significant increase in weight and body mass index in children under 4 years of age. Routinely collected data are valuable in identifying anthropometric trends in populations.

Footnotes

  • Funding None.

  • Competing interests Competing interests: None declared.

  • Accepted 9 November 2000
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