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Prev Chronic Dis. 2009 Jan;6(1):A08. Epub 2008 Dec 15.

Methods for a survey of overweight and obesity coordinated with oral health surveillance among Ohio third-grade students.

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Ohio Department of Health, State Epidemiology Office, 246 N High Street, 7th Fl, Columbus, OH 43215, USA.



Data on overweight and obesity prevalence among children enable state and local officials to develop, target, fund, and evaluate policies and programs to address childhood overweight. During the 2004-2005 school year, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) conducted surveillance of elementary school-aged children through coordination with the ODH oral health survey to create a system that would provide county and state estimates of obesity and overweight prevalence.


We used a stratified, cluster-sampling survey design. Schools were considered clusters and were sampled from strata determined by their county and by their participation rate in the Free and Reduced Price Meal program. We selected public elementary schools by probability proportional to size sampling without replacement. We requested consent from the guardian or parent of each third-grade student. Trained health care professionals used state-purchased equipment to weigh students and measure their height. We removed implausible observations and calculated sex-specific, body mass index (BMI)-for-age percentiles using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts.


Of eligible schools, 374 agreed to height and weight screening; 41 were considered substitutes. Of 26,590 enrolled students, 17,557 (66.0%) returned consent forms, and 15,209 (57.2%) provided consent. BMI estimates were generated for 14,451 students, resulting in an overall response rate of 54.3%. The overall oral health response rate was 52.8%.


By adding BMI screening to Ohio's third-grade oral health survey and incorporating trained volunteer screeners, the ODH successfully implemented overweight and obesity surveillance using minimal resources. Future efforts should focus on improving student response rate.

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