PA student assessment of body mass index in children using visual cues

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Abstract

Objective:

Pediatric weight or body mass index often is underestimated by providers when relying solely upon visual cues. This study sought to determine physician assistant (PA) students' and recent graduates' ability to accurately assess BMI for age in patients ages 3 to 5 years using visual cues.

Methods:

PA students and recent graduates visually assessed pictures of three children ages 3 to 5 years—one obese, one overweight, and one with healthy weight—for BMI categorization via online survey. Responses were scored for accuracy.

Results:

Ninety-eight PA students and recent graduates completed the assessment. Accuracy for BMI categorization was low, especially in the obese and overweight children for visual assessment alone. Accuracy improved slightly when height and weight data were provided.

Conclusions:

PA student and recent graduate visual assessment for categorization of BMI is unreliable, similar to studies with other providers. PAs should be aware of discrepancy and not rely on visual assessment to determine weight-related interventions.

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