Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among Hospitalized Children

Hosp Pediatr. 2019 Nov;9(11):897-902. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2019-0046.


Objectives: As obesity rates rise in children, it is likely that the number of hospitalized children with obesity is also increasing. However, characterization of the inpatient population with obesity as a whole has not been reported. We aimed to examine trends in the annual prevalence of obesity in hospitalized children and to identify demographic and clinical characteristics associated with higher obesity prevalence in children who are hospitalized.

Methods: We completed a retrospective cohort analysis of children aged 2 to 19 years admitted to a single tertiary children's hospital system for any reason in 2009-2016. Body mass index was calculated from documented height and weight. Children with obesity were defined by using age- and sex-specific body mass index percentile guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual obesity prevalence was calculated on the encounter level for service line and All Patients Refined Diagnosis-Related Groups (diagnosis groups). χ2 tests were used to determine statistical differences between groups, and the Cochran-Armitage test of trend was used to describe changes in obesity over time.

Results: Of 83 329 children who were hospitalized, 17.0% had obesity, increasing from 16.5% of hospitalizations in 2009-2010 to 17.3% in 2015-2016 (P = .002). Service lines with the highest obesity prevalence included orthopedics (22.1%), infectious disease (20.6%), and neuroscience (18.7%). Diagnosis groups with the highest obesity prevalence included cellulitis (22.5%), tonsil/adenoid procedures (22.0%), and some orthopedic procedures (28.7%).

Conclusions: Some groups of children who were hospitalized experience higher obesity prevalence, including children hospitalized with orthopedic, infectious disease, and neurologic problems. In future research, investigators should target disproportionately affected groups by examining health outcomes, patient safety, and satisfaction issues.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoidectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cellulitis / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • Missouri / epidemiology
  • Orthopedic Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Poisoning / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Soft Tissue Infections / epidemiology
  • State Health Plans
  • Tonsillectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Young Adult