Minority Females Are More Obese Than Whites

While some research suggests that the incidence of childhood obesity may be leveling off, a new study finds that for certain racial groups the rates may actually be getting higher.

A new report to be published in the September issue of Pediatrics, finds that black, Hispanic and American Indian girls have two to three times higher odds of having a high body-mass index (BMI) compared to white girls.

What’s more, although rates of obesity peaked for Hispanic girls in 2005, they have kept on rising for American Indian and black girls.

The researchers reviewed data on more than 8 million fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students in California. They found that 38% of the kids were overweight, nearly 20% were obese and 3.6% were severely obese.

The racial disparity was most evident in the highest BMI category. Just 1.3% of white girls fell into this category, but 4.9% of American Indian girls and 4.6% of black girls did, reported the study.

White boys peaked in 2005 and declined to 2001 levels by the end of the study. The rate of obesity dropped in Hispanic and Asian boys after 2005, but hadn’t dropped back to 2001 levels by 2008. There was no increase in the prevalence of obesity in black boys, except in the severely obese category, which peaked in 2007. The rates in American Indian boys peaked in 2007, but declined only in the above 95th percentile group.

In some areas, it’s difficult to regularly find affordable fresh produce, and in some areas, it’s not safe for kids to exercise outside. Sleep can play a role in a child’s weight, Landis said. Young children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep; school-aged kids need 10 hours; and teens need at least nine hours, she said. Without enough sleep, it may be hard to be active or to make good food choices.

What are the implications for schools?  Obesity causes children to become sluggish- unwilling to participate in school activities and worse, more susceptible to diseases like diabetes.  It is imperative for school lunches to be healthy and for school activities to involve all students.