Purpose: Increased understanding of the early determinants of obesity is essential because of the increasing prevalence of obesity in many industrialized countries.
Method: As part of the evaluation of a school-based heart health promotion intervention, we measured height, weight, and triceps skinfold thickness at baseline in 2108 students aged 9-12 years (80.5% of eligible students) in 24 inner-city elementary schools located in multiethnic, low income neighbourhoods in Montreal, Canada. Data on student's socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics were collected in classroom-administered questionnaires, and parents completed an at-home self-administered questionnaire.
Results: Overall, 35.2% of boys and 33.0% of girls were overweight (> or = 85th age and gender-specific percentiles from NHANES 11, for body mass index and triceps skinfold thickness); 15.1% of boys and 13.3% of girls were obese (> or = 95th age and gender-specific percentiles for body mass index and triceps skinfold thickness). Younger age, having lived all one's life in Canada, and being of European or Central American/Caribbean family origin were independent correlates of obesity in boys. Younger age, ever smoked, mother obese and father obese were independent correlates of obesity in girls. Girls of Asian family origin were protected.
Conclusions: The very high prevalence of overweight students in this low income, multiethnic population suggests an important need for preventive intervention.