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 New Research From All Children's Hospital Shows Few At-Risk Children Outgrow Obesity

St. Petersburg, Fla. - May 5, 2014 - A new study by researchers from All Children's Hospital and the Johns Hopkins Children's Center shows that few school-age children are able to outgrow their weight problems. Raquel Hernandez, M.D., M.P.H., lead investigator and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Associate Director of Medical Education at All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, presented the study's findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

The investigators analyzed five years of data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics on more than 9,000 children. Some of the key findings include:

  • Fewer than 1 in 5 kindergarteners identified in at-risk weight categories outgrow their at-risk weight by 5th grade
  • Hispanic children were less likely to maintain a healthy weight or return to a healthy weight during their early school years
  • Children were most likely to return to a healthy weight between kindergarten and first grade, while few children return to healthy weight in later grades
  • 70 percent of children who had healthy weight as kindergarteners maintained their healthy weight as they grew older, a finding that suggests healthy weight at an early age is a powerful predictor of healthy weight in later childhood-a phenomenon the researchers call 'obesity resilience'

"Our findings signal a worrisome trend of persistent weight troubles that don't simply go away as children grow and age," Hernandez says. "Our results underscore the critical importance of achieving healthy weight before kindergarten, which emerges as a critical predictor of healthy weight during school years and puts youngsters on a lifelong path to optimal health."

Since 2004, All Children's Hospital's Fit4AllKids initiative has helped children and teens manage their weight and make healthy choices regarding food and exercise. With the help of the Florida Blue Foundation, All Children's Hospital is also launching theTeens Living Healthy school-based program in September which will address weight management, nutrition education, goal setting, mental health and fitness for teens at a high school in Pinellas County, an area with a high rate of teen obesity.

"All Children's Hospital is committed to curbing childhood obesity," said Kellie Gilmore, Fit4AllKids Outreach Coordinator. "By offering children access to one-on-one health and fitness coaching and teaching healthy eating habits, today's youth can avoid obesity early on and maintain a healthy weight throughout their life."

Other investigators on the study included: Arik V. Marcell, M.D., M.P.H.; Janelle Garcia, Ph.D.; Ernest Amankwah, Ph.D.; and Tina L. Cheng, M.D., M.P.H.

The research was funded by an institutional grant from the All Children's Hospital Foundation.

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