Report on childhood obesity in China (4) prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity in Chinese urban school-age children and adolescents, 1985-2000

Cheng-Ye Ji
Biomedical and Environmental Sciences: BES 2007, 20 (1): 1-10

OBJECTIVE: To describe the nationwide prevalence of childhood overweight/obesity, and their group variations and trends over the past 20 years in the Chinese urban population.

METHODS: Data sets of boys and girls at the age of 7-18 years collected from the series of Chinese national surveillance on students' constitution and health (CNSSCH) between 1985 and 2000 were divided into five socioeconomic and demographic groups, while BMI classification reference proposed by Working Group on Obesity in China (WGOC) was used as screening reference to calculate the prevalence and trends of overweight/obesity in these groups.

RESULTS: In 2000, the prevalence of obesity and overweight in boys aged 7-18 years was 11.3% and 6.5% in Beijing, 13.2% and 4.9% in Shanghai, 9.9% and 4.5% in coastal big cities, and 5.8% and 2.0% in coastal medium/small-sized cities, respectively, while the prevalence of of obesity and overweight in girls of the same age group was 8.2% and 3.7% in Beijing, 7.3% and 2.6% in Shanghai, 5.9% and 2.8% in coastal big cities, and 4.8% and 1.7% in coastal medium/small-sized cities, respectively. The prevalence of obesity was low in most of the inland cities at an early stage of epidemic overweight. The epidemic manifested a gradient distribution in groups, which was closely related to socioeconomic status (SES) of the study population. However, a dramatic and steady increasing trend was witnessed among all sex-age subgroups in the five urban groups, and such a trend was stronger in boys than in girls, and much stronger in children than in adolescents.

CONCLUSION: Although China is at an early stage of epidemic obesity by and large, the prevalence of obesity in her urban population, particularly in coastal big cities has reached the average level of developed countries. The increasing trend has been rapid since early 1990s, and the increments in obesity and overweight are exceptionally high. The prospect of epidemic obesity in China is in no way optimistic. Therefore, preventive program should be focused on the improvement of the balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure, and interventions aimed at changing children's life styles.

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