UConn report finds one-third of Hartford's preschoolers overweight or obese

November 29, 2012 by Carolyn Pennington

(Medical Xpress)—A study conducted by University of Connecticut researchers finds more than one-third of Hartford preschoolers are overweight or obese with rates far above the national average for children of the same age. The report's findings were released during a news conference at Hartford City Hall today.

Researchers with the Center for Public Health and Health Policy (CPHHP) at UConn recorded the height and weight of 1,120 Hartford preschoolers and found that 20 percent were obese and 17 percent were overweight.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines show that 10 percent of preschool nationally are overweight and 5 percent are obese.

"The results are alarming and we as a city must address this issue directly if we want to ensure a healthy, productive future for all residents in Hartford," Mayor Pedro Segarra said in a statement.

The report measured the weight status of children attending center-based preschool programs in Hartford. Seventy-three percent of three-year-old children attend such centers, compared to the national average of 43 percent.

The Department of Families, Youth, and Recreation realized this offered Hartford a unique opportunity to develop system-wide interventions that could significantly reduce the prevalence of obesity in its children. To better evaluate the need, the department contracted CPHHP to provide baseline data on child weight status in city programs.

All 35 centers fully cooperated with the surveillance project resulting in a usable study sample of 1,120 Hartford preschoolers. The ethnicity of children in the centers closely paralleled that of the demographics in the city with 54 percent reported as African-American/black, and 37 percent as Latino.

Boys were just as likely to be overweight or obese as girls, but children with a reported ethnicity of Latino were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese than children listed as African-American. Children, ages four and five, were more likely to be overweight or obese than younger enrollees. At all centers except one, over 30 percent of the children were overweight or obese.

"Many children enter preschool programs already programmed for obesity," says Ann Ferris, director of UConn's Center for Public Health and Health Policy. "Children should not grow fatter in this age group. This is especially the case because during this stage of growth and development when incremental changes in height are greater than those of weight, resulting in longer legs and arms and increased trunk length, obesity prevalence should decrease. The data shows the opposite occurring among preschoolers in Hartford."

The report noted that as a greater percentage of the preschool population becomes obese, both parents and teachers lose perspective on what is a healthy weight for a child. Earlier studies in Hartford found that parents of preschool children do not see obesity as an issue, especially when they compare the weight of their children with playmates who also have unhealthy weights. These unhealthy weights are seen as "normal."

Ferris says although the problem seems insurmountable, the solutions are feasible. For , the average change needed from current energy intake may be less than 35 Kcal/day. This equates to the reduction of about 2 oz. of apple juice or an increase of less than 15 minutes of activity. Creating these changes falls within the purview of a center-based program.

"However, these programs support children during one critical, but limited, phase in the children's lives," explains Ferris. "To have long lasting impact, supportive programming for home, health care, early childcare, and other school, faith, and community environments that provide opportunities for healthful living must bookmark their work."

Explore further: Obesity a concern? Don't use sweets to reward children's behaviour, reduce screen time

Related Stories

Obesity a concern? Don't use sweets to reward children's behaviour, reduce screen time

October 2, 2012
Cutting screen time and not rewarding children's good behaviour with sweets are among the steps parents could take to reduce overweight and obesity in children before they start school, according to research by the University ...

Community-based intervention feasible for obese children

September 18, 2012
(HealthDay)—A community-based scalable weight-management program correlates with significant reductions in overweight status in children, according to a study published online Sept. 17 in Pediatrics.

Obese children more likely to suffer growth plate fractures

February 8, 2012
Obese children are 74 percent more likely to sustain a fracture of the growth plate, the softer end of the bone where growth occurs. A new study presented today at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic ...

Recommended for you

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

New study finds more than 2 billion people overweight or obese

June 12, 2017
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.