Body mass index as a function of length of United States residency among Haitian immigrant children

Ethn Dis. Winter 2010;20(1):22-8.


Objectives: 1) To compare Body Mass Index (BMI) percentiles of Haitian-born children and US-born Haitian Children; 2) To assess the relationship between time in the United States and BMI percentiles for Haitian-born children; and 3) To compare BMI percentiles of Haitian-born and US-born Haitian children to other US pediatric populations included in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

Design: Retrospective medical chart review of demographic and anthropometric characteristics.

Setting: Center for Haitian Studies, a nonprofit community based organization that provides health care and social services to the Haitian community.

Patients: The medical charts from 250 children ages 2-18 who received medical care at CHS between January 1, 2004 and July 30, 2006.

Main outcome measures: 1) Overweight (> or = 85th to <95th BMI percentile) and 2) Obese (> or = 95th BMI percentile).

Results: Thirty percent of Haitian-born and 51% of US-born Haitian children were > or = 85th percentile for BMI. US-born children had higher BMI percentiles than Haitian-born children (81st percentile vs 68th percentile). Among Haitian-born children, BMI percentile increased by 3.7% for each year of US residency. When compared to NHANES data, Haitian-born children were less likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic Blacks, Mexican Americans, and non-Hispanic White children, or for all groups combined (14.9% vs 33.6%, 95% CI 9.8%-22.2%), but were as likely to be obese (14.9% vs 17.7%, 95% CI, 9.8%-22.2%).

Conclusions: Haitian-born children are currently experiencing a 3.7% BMI percentile increase for each year of US residency and are as likely to be overweight as other US minority children making them potentially at increased risk for health consequences associated with obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Centers
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Florida / epidemiology
  • Haiti / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Thinness / ethnology
  • Weight Gain / ethnology*