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Overweight and obesity

  • How is obesity assessed in children?

    Body mass index (BMI) is the standard tool to assess child overweight and obesity in children over 2 years

    BMI is calculated using the following formula:

                    BMI = weight (kg) / height (m2)

    Waist circumference can be used as an adjunct to BMI;  - a waist-to-height ratio of > 0.5 in children as young as 6 years may be useful in predicting cardiovascular risk in children, and is easy to calculate

    What is the role of BMI in children?

    Unlike adults where a single BMI can be applied across all ages, BMI for children depends on age and stage of growth

    • For children 2 – 18 years or age, overweight is defined as BMI >85th centile on BMI chart

    • Obese is defined as BMI >95th centile  on CDC BMI chart or >97th centile on WHO BMI chart.

    • For children under 2 years, overweight is defined as above the 97th percentile on WHO growth charts and gaining weight rapidly.

    • Almost 25% of Australian children are considered overweight based on these definitions
    • BMI can be calculated in children from 2 years of age, with a goal to identify as early as possible children who may be at risk of overweight and obesity with a view to prevent obesity rather than reverse it 

    What are the consequences of overweight?

    Obesity predisposes children to a range of serious medical conditions including insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease

    Overweight children are at risk of low self-esteem, negative self-image and social isolation

    Who to refer to?

    • All early childhood professionals play an important role in the early identification, assessment and management of childhood overweight
    • A family approach to healthy lifestyle habits is recommended. These strategies promote health and wellbeing for the child and family 
    • For further assessment refer the child and family to a GP or a Paediatrician
    • For more information and resources about child overweight see Raising Children Network
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