Childhood obesity study results released

A recent study completed by the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford revealed that living in rural areas of the U.S. is a risk factor for children being overweight or obese.

Using the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), the prevalence of overweight and/or obese rural children ages 5 to 18 was compared with that of children living in a metropolitan setting. This is the first known study to use national data to explore the link between rural residency and childhood overweight or obesity.

“One major finding of the study was that children living in rural areas of the U.S. are about 25 percent more likely to be overweight or obese, compared to children living in urban areas,” said Martin Lipsky, M.D., regional dean of the college and co-author of the study. “This was definitely contrary and higher to our original beliefs about where the trend towards childhood obesity would exist.”

Authored by M. Nawal Lutfiyya, Ph.D., from the College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, and Dr. Lipsky, the study’s objective was to examine the hypothesis that living in a rural area is a risk factor for children being overweight or obese. Despite current studies suggesting there is a higher risk factor that occurs in rural areas in the U.S., there is no research comparing the prevalence levels of overweight and obesity of rural to metropolitan children.

Other results revealed that rural overweight or obese children older than 5 were more likely than their metropolitan counterparts to: be Caucasian; live in households 200 percent of the federal poverty level; have no health insurance; have not received preventive health care in the past 12 months; be female; use a computer for non-school work more than three hours a day; and watch TV for more than three hours a day.

According to the researchers, studies like this will help identify where more preventive measures need to be applied to combat this national epidemic. Identifying rural residency as a risk factor for overweight or obese children suggests strategies to reduce the prevalence in these children should consider interventions targeted to children living in rural settings. Physicians practicing in rural settings should also consider strategies that might adapt their practices to address rural obesity.

This study will be published in the September issue of Obesity Research.

from the July 25-31, 2007, issue

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