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Med Decis Making. 2013 Feb;33(2):163-75. doi: 10.1177/0272989X12447240. Epub 2012 May 29.

The utility of childhood and adolescent obesity assessment in relation to adult health.

Author information

  • 1Stanford Health Policy, Department of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-6019, USA. jeremygf@stanford.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

High childhood obesity prevalence has raised concerns about future adult health, generating calls for obesity screening of young children.

OBJECTIVE:

To estimate how well childhood obesity predicts adult obesity and to forecast obesity-related health of future US adults.

DESIGN:

Longitudinal statistical analyses; microsimulations combining multiple data sets.

DATA SOURCES:

National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Population Study of Income Dynamics, and National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Surveys.

METHODS:

The authors estimated test characteristics and predictive values of childhood body mass index to identify 2-, 5-, 10-, and 15 year-olds who will become obese adults. The authors constructed models relating childhood body mass index to obesity-related diseases through middle age stratified by sex and race.

RESULTS:

Twelve percent of 18-year-olds were obese. While screening at age 5 would miss 50% of those who become obese adults, screening at age 15 would miss 9%. The predictive value of obesity screening below age 10 was low even when maternal obesity was included as a predictor. Obesity at age 5 was a substantially worse predictor of health in middle age than was obesity at age 15. For example, the relative risk of developing diabetes as adults for obese white male 15-year-olds was 4.5 versus otherwise similar nonobese 15-year-olds. For obese 5-year-olds, the relative risk was 1.6.

LIMITATION:

Main results do not include Hispanics due to sample size. Past relationships between childhood and adult obesity and health may change in the future.

CONCLUSION:

Early childhood obesity assessment adds limited information to later childhood assessment. Targeted later childhood approaches or universal strategies to prevent unhealthy weight gain should be considered.

PMID:
22647830
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3968272
Free PMC Article

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