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Childhood obesity and overweight prevalence trends in England: evidence for growing socio-economic disparities

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      Abstract

      Objective

      Previous data indicate a rapidly increasing prevalence of obesity and overweight among English children and an emerging socioeconomic gradient in prevalence. The main aim of this study was to update prevalence trends among school-age children and assess the changing socioeconomic gradient.

      Design

      A series of nationally representative household-based health surveys conducted between 1997 and 2007 in England.

      Subjects

      15,271 white children (7880 boys) aged 5 to 10 years with measured height and weight.

      Measurements

      Height and weight were directly measured by trained fieldworkers. Overweight (including obesity) and obesity prevalence were calculated using the international body mass index cut-offs. Socioeconomic position (SEP) score was a composite score based on income and social class. Multiple linear regression assessed the prevalence odds with time point (1997/8, 2000/1, 2002/3, 2004/5, 2006/7) as the main exposure. Linear interaction terms of time by SEP were also tested for.

      Results

      There are signs that the overweight and obesity trend has levelled off from 2002/3 to 2006/7. The odds ratio (OR) for overweight in 2006/7 compared to 2002/3 was 0.99 (95% CI 0.88 to 1.11) and for obesity OR = 1.06 (0.86 to 1.29). The socioeconomic gradient has increased in recent years, particularly 2006/7. Compared to 1997/8, the 2006/7 age and sex-adjusted OR for overweight was 1.88 (1.52 to 2.33) in low SEP, 1.25 (1.04 to 1.50) in middle SEP, and 1.13 (0.86 to 1.48) in high SEP children.

      Conclusion

      Childhood obesity and overweight prevalence among school-age children in England has stabilised in recent years, but children from lower socio-economic strata have not benefited from this trend. There is an urgent need to reduce socio-economic disparities in childhood overweight and obesity.

      Related collections

      Most cited references 41

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      Obesity in children and young people: a crisis in public health.

       ,  T Lobstein,  R Uauy (2004)
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        Measuring social class in US public health research: concepts, methodologies, and guidelines.

        Increasing social inequalities in health in the United States and elsewhere, coupled with growing inequalities in income and wealth, have refocused attention on social class as a key determinant of population health. Routine analysis using conceptually coherent and consistent measures of socioeconomic position in US public health research and surveillance, however, remains rare. This review discusses concepts and methodologies concerning, and guidelines for measuring, social class and other aspects of socioeconomic position (e.g. income, poverty, deprivation, wealth, education). These data should be collected at the individual, household, and neighborhood level, to characterize both childhood and adult socioeconomic position; fluctuations in economic resources during these time periods also merit consideration. Guidelines for linking census-based socioeconomic measures and health data are presented, as are recommendations for analyses involving social class, race/ethnicity, and gender. Suggestions for research on socioeconomic measures are provided, to aid monitoring steps toward social equity in health.
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          Socioeconomic status in health research: one size does not fit all.

          Problems with measuring socioeconomic status (SES)-frequently included in clinical and public health studies as a control variable and less frequently as the variable(s) of main interest-could affect research findings and conclusions, with implications for practice and policy. We critically examine standard SES measurement approaches, illustrating problems with examples from new analyses and the literature. For example, marked racial/ethnic differences in income at a given educational level and in wealth at a given income level raise questions about the socioeconomic comparability of individuals who are similar on education or income alone. Evidence also shows that conclusions about nonsocioeconomic causes of racial/ethnic differences in health may depend on the measure-eg, income, wealth, education, occupation, neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics, or past socioeconomic experiences-used to "control for SES," suggesting that findings from studies that have measured limited aspects of SES should be reassessed. We recommend an outcome- and social group-specific approach to SES measurement that involves (1) considering plausible explanatory pathways and mechanisms, (2) measuring as much relevant socioeconomic information as possible, (3) specifying the particular socioeconomic factors measured (rather than SES overall), and (4) systematically considering how potentially important unmeasured socioeconomic factors may affect conclusions. Better SES measures are needed in data sources, but improvements could be made by using existing information more thoughtfully and acknowledging its limitations.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]University College London, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health
            [2 ]University College London, Institute of Child Health
            Author notes
            Correspondence: Emmanuel Stamatakis, Ph.D., Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK. Tel: (44) 20 7679 1721, e.stamatakis@ 123456ucl.ac.uk
            Journal
            101256108
            32579
            Int J Obes (Lond)
            Int J Obes (Lond)
            International journal of obesity (2005)
            0307-0565
            1476-5497
            13 December 2013
            03 November 2009
            January 2010
            17 December 2013
            : 34
            : 1
            19884892 3865596 10.1038/ijo.2009.217 EMS27824
            Funding
            Funded by: Medical Research Council :
            Award ID: G0700961(82436) || MRC_
            Categories
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