Severely obese preschoolers in a tertiary care obesity program: characteristics and management

Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2015 Apr;54(4):346-52. doi: 10.1177/0009922814555975. Epub 2014 Nov 17.


Objectives: To describe the characteristics and management of severely obese 2- to 5-year-olds children referred to a tertiary care multidisciplinary obesity center.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted of children 2 to 5 years old evaluated at the center from January 2009 to February 2011. Referral eligibility was a body mass index (BMI) ≥95th percentile.

Results: Of the 2- to 5-year-olds seen at the center, 140 (94%) had a BMI >99th percentile. Of these children with severe obesity, 54% were female, 48% were Caucasian, and mean age was 4.60 years (SD = 1.00). Mean BMI and BMI z-score at initial visit was 26.5 kg/m(2) (SD = 4.12) and 3.59 (SD = 0.95), respectively. BMI z-scores varied significantly by age-χ(2)(3, N = 140) = 54.44, P < .001-and gender-χ(2)(1, N = 140) = -5.31, P < .001-with males and younger children presenting at much higher BMI z-scores. Most of the children had a family history of obesity, (85%), type 2 diabetes (74%), and hypertension (74%). Nearly one third of families reported history of mental health or substance abuse problems. Comorbidities were prevalent, particularly dyslipidemia and problematic eating behaviors. For the 53% of children who returned for at least one follow-up visit, mean BMI z-score decreased significantly by 0.15-t(79) = 5.31, P < .001.

Conclusions: Our findings underscore the severity of the condition facing these children and their families. With improved retention, the tertiary care multidisciplinary program may be a viable option for successful intervention for these children.

Keywords: management; preschoolers; severe obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Tertiary Healthcare / methods*