Health care expenditures significantly higher for children with obesity

Children and adolescents who are obese or overweight have higher health care utilization and a significantly higher average of health care charges than their healthy-weight peers, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information in the article, 30 percent of children in the United States are obese or overweight with six in ten having at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 25 percent having more than two risk factors for the disease. The authors note that more than 80 percent of obese 12-year-olds will carry their overweight status into adulthood.

Sarah E. Hampl, M.D., and colleagues at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and the University of MissouriKansas City School of Medicine analyzed data from 8,404 patients age 5 to 18 who attended a primary care clinic in the Midwest for well-child care visits during 2002 and 2003. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated with patients' height and weight information. Four weight categories were used in the study: patients with a BMI in the 95th percentile or higher for their age and sex with a discharge diagnosis of obesity, patients with a BMI in the 95th percentile or higher for their age and sex without a diagnosis of obesity, patients with BMI between the 85th and 94th percentiles classified as overweight and patients with BMIs lower than the 85th percentile classified as healthy weight.

Health care resource utilization was measured for each category and included the number of health care visits and blood tests that occurred within a year from each patient's initial visit. Health care expenditures were determined by charge data obtained through the billing system of health care resources. Factors associated with the diagnosis of obesity were also examined.

Based on the patients' BMI, 17.8 percent were overweight and 21.9 percent were obese. Of the

Contact: Wandra Green
JAMA and Archives Journals

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