For parents, a visit to the pediatrician usually involves a discussion about where their child is on a growth chart compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, in an effort to improve the treatment and follow-up of children with a high body mass index (BMI), the agency has released extended growth charts for children whose BMI is not reflected on old curves.
The old BMI charts were published in 2000 based on representative data from the 1960s to 1980s. Due to a lack of data, obese children were not reflected in these charts, which spanned the 97th percentile and at a BMI of 37. The new charts extend up to a BMI of 60 and show how far a child’s BMI is from the median measurements. for children of the same age and gender.
The CDC defines severe obesity as a BMI greater than or equal to 120% of the 95th percentile on the BMI-for-age growth charts. A severely obese 2-year-old, for example, would have a BMI over 23, while a severely obese 13-year-old would have a BMI over 31 for girls and 30 for boys.
“I encourage health care providers to use extended growth charts as a tool when working with severely obese children and adolescents,” said Karen Hacker, director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention. and CDC Health Promotion, in a press release. “Intervening early is key to improving the health of our children as they grow into adults.”
When it comes to non-obese children and adolescents, previous growth charts will not change. The CDC decided to retain the existing percentile system to maintain a benchmark for historical BMI measurements and for purposes of research comparability.
The obesity rate among children and teens ages 2 to 19 rose from 5.2% in 1970-1971 to 19.3% in 2017-2018, according to the CDC. Severe obesity rates in the age group increased from 1% in 1970-1971 to 6.1% in 2017-2018.