Health Disparity Among American Preschool Children: A Comparison of Body Mass Index Across Selected Ethnic Groups

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Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown

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The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between ethnicity and BMI-for-age in preschool children. Obesity rates have been rising for adults and children, with estimates for preschoolers reaching 43 million (de Onis et al., 2010). Various factors influence children’s health in the United States: access to healthcare and healthy food options, safety of outdoor exercise, and socioeconomic status, especially for children of minority background. Prior studies have demonstrated the BMI disparity across ethnic groups—white, black, Asian, and Hispanic—in which Asian-Americans were twice more likely than whites to develop type 2 diabetes. Adulthood weight gain for Asian-Americans showed for every 11 pounds gained there was an 84% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Harvard, 2012). To explore health and ethnicity in children, data were collected from preschool participants ranging in age from three to five. Researchers measured height (cm) using a stadiometer and weight (kg) using a standard electronic scale. BMI-for-age was calculated, and was based off of the CDC’s Tool for Schools. Participants completed an activity preference ‘game’ involving pointing to one of two picture options depicting indoor or outdoor activities. A survey was also completed in which the researcher asked their favorite and least favorite activities, specifying inside or outside and sedentary or dynamic activities. Based on existing research, we expect for both European-Americans and Latinos, boys will have greater BMIs than girls. Regarding African-Americans, we predict girls will have a higher BMI than boys. Within gender groups, we expect African-American girls to have the highest BMI, followed by Latino girls, European-American girls, and Asian girls. Regarding boys, we anticipate Latino boys will have the highest BMI, followed by African-American, European-American, and Asian. This work has implications for early intervention programs targeted toward decreasing health disparities based on ethnicity.

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