ORLANDO, Fla. — Obesity may affect children’s ability to carry out daily tasks and cope at school, according to research presented at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition.
“We know that childhood and adolescent obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges we face today,” Natasha Gill, MD, FAAP, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Hasbro Children’s Hospital, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “What we do not know a lot about is what are the immediate effects of obesity on a child’s ability to thrive or flourish in society such as exhibiting curiosity in learning, taking initiative, and persistence and resilience when faced with a challenge. After adjusting for confounders, I found that when compared to youth with a normal BMI, obese children had between 20% to 30% deceased odds of demonstrating almost every flourishing marker.”
In a cross-sectional study, Gill and colleagues sought to explain the relationship between BMI and children’s flourishment, defined as their overall well-being and development. They analyzed the responses of 22,914 parents of children aged 10 to 17 years in the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). The parents reported on five markers of flourishment in their children — completing homework, showing interest in learning, finishing tasks, staying calm when challenged and caring about doing well in school. The researchers used a multiple binary regression model to measure the association between BMI-for-age and the five markers. They adjusted their analysis for age, gender, child depression status, average sleep hours per night, average digital media exposure per day, parent’s education level and household poverty status.
Gill reported that overweight children accounted for 14.5% and obese children made up 56% of the sample size. A smaller percentage of obese children (27.5%) was reported to have all five flourishing markers compared with children who were overweight (36.5%) and those with normal BMI (39%; P < .001). When the researchers adjusted for confounding variables, they found that children with obesity had decreased odds of demonstrating four of the five flourishing markers compared with children with normal BMI, including showing an interest in learning new things (adjusted OR = 0.78; 95% CI, 0.62-0.97), finishing tasks (aOR = 0.77; 95% CI, 0.63-0.94), staying calm when faced with a challenge (aOR = 0.73; 95% CI, 0.59-0.9) and caring about academics (aOR = 0.69; 95% CI, 0.5-0.86). Obesity in children was not significantly associated with the marker of completing homework (aOR = 0.82; 95% CI, 0.67-1.02).
“It has become standard of care to track developmental milestones and BMI in pediatrics, and this is a type of primary prevention — where we try to identify the issue before it becomes a disease,” Gill said. “If we notice a child’s BMI is becoming concerning, we should open a dialogue. For me, this dialogue isn’t always easy. After doing this study, I feel like I can now educate about the urgency of preventing and treating obesity because it can affect the day-to-day life of their child, their development, their relationships.” – by Bruce Thiel
Gill N, et al. Child flourishing is negatively associated with obesity. Presented at: AAP National Conference & Exhibition; Nov. 2-6, 2018; Orlando, Fla.
Disclosure: Gill reports no relevant financial disclosures.