Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Children’s Weight Persist

Given public attention to weight issues among children, some might assume that there are fewer kids these days at a healthy weight than 10 years ago. When examining California data for 5th, 7th and 9th graders in public schools, however, it’s striking that most of the trend lines are fairly flat. In 1999, for example, 67% of California 5th graders were at a healthy weight. Roughly 10 years later, in 2010, that percentage was similar, at about 69%.

While the data indicate that weight trends among public school kids in these grades may not be getting worse, at least as measured by this indicator, neither have they gotten discernibly better over the last 10 years.

What also hasn’t budged much are racial/ethnic disparities in children’s weight.  Across 5th, 7th, and 9th grade in 1999, there was roughly a 20 percentage point difference between the racial/ethnic groups in California that had the lowest and highest percentage of students at a healthy weight. In 2010, that percentage point spread was at about 23, slightly greater than in ‘99.

That there are racial/ethnic disparities in children’s weight is not surprising. The data reveal just how intractable these disparities have proven to be over the past decade.  In 1999, for example, 74% of Caucasian/White 9th graders were at a healthy weight, compared to 59% of Pacific Islander 9th graders. In 2010, that gap had widened – about 80% of Caucasian/White 9th graders in California at a healthy weight, compared to 59% of Pacific Islander youth in this grade.  

One key step in addressing these disparities is continuing to monitor the data and raise awareness about the issues. Understanding what works, especially in this tough budget climate, is another essential step. Numerous organizations and individuals have been working hard for many years to address these disparities and improve children’s weight, overall. For more information about key organizations, research on this topic, and strategies to address these complex issues, see kidsdata’s Research & Links section and a summary of policy implications.

If you have insights to share on this subject, please post a comment here.


Posted by kidsdata.org

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 at 10:30 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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