Obesity in American-Indian children: prevalence, consequences, and prevention

Prev Med. 2003 Dec;37(6 Pt 2):S3-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2003.08.008.


Background: American Indians of all ages and both sexes have a high prevalence of obesity. The health risks associated with obesity are numerous and include Type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and respiratory problems. Obesity has become a major health problem in American Indians only in the past few generations and it is believed to be associated with the relative abundance of high-fat, high-calorie foods and the rapid change from active to sedentary lifestyles.

Methods: The authors reviewed selected literature on prevalence of obesity in American-Indian children, and health consequences of obesity.

Results: Obesity is now one of the most serious public health problems facing American-Indian children, and it has grave implications for the immediate and long-term health of American-Indian youth. Unless this pattern is reversed, American-Indian populations will be burdened by an increased incidence of chronic diseases. Intervention studies are urgently needed in American-Indian communities to develop and test effective strategies for obesity prevention and treatment.

Conclusions: To be effective, educational and environmental interventions must be developed with full participation of the American-Indian communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / ethnology
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / complications
  • Hyperlipidemias / ethnology
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Life Style / ethnology
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • United States / epidemiology