Background: Childhood obesity is a public health problem in Canada. Accurate measurement of a health problem is crucial in defining its burden. The objective of this study is to compare the prevalence estimates of overweight and obesity in preschool children using three growth references.
Methods: Weights and heights were measured on 1026 preschool children born in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), Canada, and body mass index calculated. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was determined and statistical comparisons conducted among the three growth references; the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Results: CDC and IOTF produced similar estimates of the prevalence of overweight, 19.1% versus 18.2% while the WHO reported a higher prevalence 26.7% (p < .001). The CDC classified twice as many children as obese compared to the IOTF 16.6% versus 8.3% (p < .001) and a third more than the WHO 16.6% versus 11.3% (p < .01). There was variable level of agreement between methods.
Conclusions: The CDC reported a much higher prevalence of obesity compared to the other references. The prevalence of childhood obesity is dependent on the growth reference used.