Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in a Representative Sample of Elementary School Children in Puerto Rico by Socio-Demographic Characteristics, 2008

Winna T. Rivera, Linnette Rodríguez-Figueroa, Glena Calderón


Objective: Childhood obesity is a worldwide epidemic; its prevalence has quadrupled in the US among children from 6-11 y/o. In the US, Hispanic children have a higher prevalence of obesity compared to non-Hispanic whites. No representative data was available for Puerto Rican children from first to sixth grades in Puerto Rico or the US. The aim of this study was to measure the prevalence of childhood obesity among Puerto Rican children from first to sixth grade by different socio-demographic characteristics in a sub-urban municipality in Puerto Rico. Methods: A two-stage stratified cluster sampling design was used (n=250). Weights and heights were measured twice to the nearest 0.1 kg and 0.1 cm, respectively. Weight status of children was determined based on the CDC criteria. Chi-square and Fisher tests were used to compare proportions. Simple logistic regressions were used to assess associations with socio-demographic variables. Results: Nearly half of the students (51.0%) were boys; mean age was 9.5 +1.9 years. Almost 40% of the children had family monthly incomes under $1,000. Overall childhood obesity prevalence (BMI > 95th percentile) was 26.8%. Prevalence of having some type of overweight (BMI for age > 85%) was statistically similar by gender and school grade. Low family-income children had 76% higher odds of having some type of overweight compared with those with higher income. Conclusion: This study documents a high prevalence of Puerto Rican childhood obesity among first to sixth grade regardless of grade level and gender, which is higher than the prevalence among Hispanics in the US. A higher probability of overweight was seen among the poorer children. This is the first study conducted among first to sixth graders. Thus, it calls for attention towards Puerto Rican children in the island and the US.


Prevalence of Childhood Obesity, Puerto Rico, Low Income Families

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