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Survey highlights states' childhood-obesity rates

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A study published today in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine looks at obesity rates among children. Among the findings: in 2007, 31.6 percent of children in the U.S. were overweight, defined as having a BMI at or above their sex- and age-specific 85th percentile; and 16.4 percent were considered obese, defined as having a BMI at or above the 95th percentile. The study, which focused on National Survey of Children's Health data, also looked at state-specific obesity rates:

The prevalence of obesity varied substantially across the states, with Mississippi having the highest prevalence (21.9%) and Oregon the lowest prevalence (9.6%). Overweight prevalence varied from a low of 23.1% for children in Utah to a high of 44.5% for children in Mississippi. Between 2003 and 2007, obesity prevalence increased by 10% for all US children and by 18% for female children, declined by 32% for children in Oregon, and doubled among female children in Arizona and Kansas. Children in Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, and Kansas had more than twice the adjusted odds of being obese than children in Oregon.

In California, 30.5 percent of children were overweight; 15 percent were obese.

As noted in the paper, the geographic patterns shown here are similar to those observed for obesity among the country's adult population: "A number of Southern states such as Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee that were in the top quintile of childhood obesity also belonged in the top quintile of the adult obesity rates in 2007."

The researchers point out that the "marked geographic disparities shown here indicate the potential for considerable reduction in childhood obesity."

Previously: Is the obesity epidemic in U.S. showing signs of slowing? and Gains in life expectancy could be outweighed by increasing obesity rates
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