Objective: To describe childhood weight gain using body mass index (BMI) z-score trajectories in a low-income urban safety-net population and identify among gender- and race/ethnicity-specific groups any trends for increased risk.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted among 2- to 12-year-old patients (2006-2013) visiting a safety-net provider. BMI z-score trajectories were calculated overall, for gender- and race/ethnicity-specific groups, and for peak BMI percentile subgroups to describe weight gain longitudinally.
Results: From 2006 to 2013, a total of 26,234 eligible children were followed for an average of 3.7 years. At baseline (mean age, 4.2 years), 74% of patients were at a normal weight compared to 65% at most recent observation (mean age, 7.8 years). All gender and race/ethnicity subgroups showed increasing average BMI z-scores during childhood. Children consistently under the 50th percentile and those of white race had the most stable BMI z-score trajectories. BMI z-score increased with increasing age in all subgroups. Hispanic boys and black girls had the most significant increase in BMI z-score during this observation period. Children observed in early childhood and whose BMI exceeded the 95th percentile at any time were often already overweight (20%) or obese (36%) by 3 years of age.
Conclusions: The entire population demonstrated an upward trend in BMI z-score trajectory. This trend was most notable among black girls and Hispanic boys. Many obese children were already overweight by age 3, and persistence of obesity after 3 years of age was high, suggesting that intervention before age 3 may be essential to curbing unhealthy weight trajectories.
Keywords: BMI; obesity; prevention; trajectory.
Copyright © 2014 Academic Pediatric Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.