, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 183-191,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 04 May 2013

Childhood obesity, overweight and underweight: a study in primary schools in Milan

Abstract

Aims

The study aims to assess the prevalence of obesity, overweight and underweight in children enrolled in government primary schools (6–11 years of age) in the city of Milan, Italy.

Methods

One hundred and nine schools were randomly selected for the study. A cross-sectional study was conducted between March and June 2008. A survey was conducted using 16,588 questionnaires completed by parents. Anthropometric data (reported) of both parents and children and information on levels of physical activity and time children spent watching television (TV) were obtained.

Results

In the total sample, parents are predominantly (75.0 %) of normal weight (M: 55.2 %; F: 79.1 %), 16.8 % are overweight (M: 36.9 %; F: 12.6 %), 4.0 % are obese (M: 6.6 %; F: 3.5 %) and 4.2 % are underweight (M: 1.3 %; F: 4.8 %). Among children, 68.7 % are of normal weight (M: 68.2 %; F: 69.2 %), 14.7 % are overweight (M: 15.3 %; F: 14.2 %), 4 % are obese (M: 4.5 %; F: 3.4 %), 11.8 % are underweight (M: 11.2 %; F: 12.5 %) and 0.8 % are severely thin (M: 0.9 %; F: 0.7 %). Children practice physical activity once or twice/week (48.3 %), three to four times/week (38.9 %) or five to seven times/week (8.9 %), while 3.9 % of children do not do any exercise. Most children (85.3 %) watch TV from 30 min to 2 h/day.

Conclusion

Contrary to the reported national average, the study shows the presence of only moderate levels of above-average weight and obesity among children. However, it remains important to monitor this phenomenon to raise awareness and to design programs of prevention throughout the country.