, Volume 85, Issue 4, pp 545-554
Date: 10 May 2008

Early Onset of Overweight and Obesity among Low-Income 1- to 5-Year Olds in New York City

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Early-childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, particularly among low-income, minority, urban children. Understanding the progression of obesity prevalence rates from infancy through early childhood can inform public health efforts to combat this epidemic and create developmentally appropriate strategies. In this study, we assessed the prevalence of overweight and obesity among urban 1- to 5-year olds and estimated risk by age and gender. We surveyed the medical records of a random sample of 1,713 children seen at a New York City primary-care network. Outcome measures were weight-for-length for <2-year olds and body mass index for 2- to 5-year olds. Overweight was defined as percentiles ≥85% to <95%, obesity ≥95%. Analysis utilized chi-square, logistic regression, and z tests. Between 1 and 5 years of age, overweight increased 3.7% to 20.8% and obesity 7.5% to 29.8% (p < 0.01). Risk increased with age: compared with 1-year olds, 5-year olds were 8.2 times as likely (95% confidence interval (CI) = 5.5–12.21) to be overweight or obese. Boys were more likely to be obese than girls (adjusted odds ratio = 1.3; 95% CI = 1–1.64). Significant increases in overweight and obesity occurred between ages 1 and 3 years (overweight, 3.7% to 16%, p < 0.01; obesity, 7.5% to 30.2%, p < 0.01). Among urban children, more than half were overweight or obese by age 5. Overweight and obesity rates increased dramatically between the ages of 1 and 3 years. Interventions aimed at this age period may have the greatest impact at preventing childhood obesity.