Measuring health disparities: trends in racial-ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in obesity among 2- to 18-year old youth in the United States, 2001-2010

Ann Epidemiol. 2012 Oct;22(10):698-704. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.07.005. Epub 2012 Aug 11.


Purpose: Although eliminating health disparities by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (SES) is a top public health priority internationally and in the United States, weight-related racial/ethnic and SES disparities persist among adults and children in the United States. Few studies have examined how these disparities have changed over time; these studies are limited by the reliance on rate differences or ratios to measure disparities. We sought to advance existing research by using a set of disparity metrics on both the absolute and relative scales to examine trends in childhood obesity disparities over time.

Methods: Data from 7066 children, ages 2 to 18 years, in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys were used to explore trends in racial/ethnic and SES disparities in pediatric obesity from 2001 to 2010 using a set of different disparity metrics.

Results: Racial/ethnic and SES-related disparities in pediatric obesity did not change significantly from 2001 to 2010 and remain significant.

Conclusions: Disparities in obesity have not improved during the past decade. The use of different disparity metrics may lead to different conclusions with respect to how disparities have changed over time, highlighting the need to evaluate disparities using a variety of metrics.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • United States / epidemiology