An increasing trend in health-care professionals notifying children of unhealthy weight status: NHANES 1999-2014

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Pediatric obesity prevalence remains at historically high levels. The objective of this study was to examine secular trends in the percentages of overweight/obese children who received notification from a health-care professional (HCP) about their unhealthy weight.

METHODS:

We analyzed data of 25 570 (including 8639 overweight/obese) children aged 2-18 years collected from seven crosssectional biennial surveys (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2014), in which adolescents (16 years and older) and caregivers, mostly biological mothers, of children (2-15 years) were asked ‘Has a doctor or other health professional ever told you that you (or your child) were overweight?’

RESULTS:

Approximately 90% of overweight/obese children visited HCPs at least once in the past 12 months, but only 22.12% (s.e. = 1.92) in 1999 to 34.43% (2.35) in 2014 of the overweight/obese children were notified by HCPs about unhealthy weight. The biennial increase in odds of receipt of notification of unhealthy weight was 1.08 (95% confidence interval = (1.04-1.12)). Greater likelihood for receipt of notification was associated with being obese (odds ratio = 5.03 (4.29-5.89) vs overweight); black (1.24 (1.06-1.46)) or Hispanic race/ethnicity (1.72 (1.45-2.04) vs white); female sex (1.22 (1.07-1.11) vs boys); and child's insurance status (1.31 (1.08-1.59) vs uninsured). There were increasing odds of being notified with increasing age: 1.00 (reference), 2.24 (2.06-2.62), 3.22 (2.50-4.13) and 4.87 (3.76-6.32) for children 2-5, 6-11, 12-16 and 16 + year old, respectively. The frequency of medical contact was linearly associated with an increased likelihood of being notified.

CONCLUSIONS:

Notification of child's unhealthy weight by HCPs increased significantly between 1999 and 2014, but the opportunity of clinical intervention remained substantially under-utilized.

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