Sources of variability in childhood obesity indicators and related behaviors

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe sources of variability in obesity-related variables in 6022 children aged 9–11 years from 12 countries. The study design involved recruitment of students, nested within schools, which were nested within study sites. Height, weight and waist circumference (WC) were measured and body mass index (BMI) was calculated; sleep duration and total and in-school moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary time were measured by accelerometry; and diet scores were obtained by questionnaire. Variance in most variables was largely explained at the student level: BMI (91.9%), WC (93.5%), sleep (75.3%), MVPA (72.5%), sedentary time (76.9%), healthy diet score (88.3%), unhealthy diet score (66.2%), with the exception of in-school MVPA (53.8%) and in-school sedentary time (25.1%). Variance explained at the school level ranged from 3.3% for BMI to 29.8% for in-school MVPA, and variance explained at the site level ranged from 3.2% for WC to 54.2% for in-school sedentary time. In general, more variance was explained at the school and site levels for behaviors than for anthropometric traits. Given the variance in obesity-related behaviors in primary school children explained at school and site levels, interventions that target policy and environmental changes may enhance obesity intervention efforts.

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