Previous studies have consistently shown that, compared to national standards, Native Americans across all age groups are disproportionately overweight or obese. Although most available data on rates of obesity in this group come from studies conducted on reservations, the proportion of Native Americans residing on reservation lands is rapidly declining. This study examines the prevalence of overweight and obesity in a population of Midwestern adolescents in public school settings and contrasts Caucasian and African-American adolescents with Native-American youths of the same age. Data were derived from a secondary analysis of an anonymous health-risk survey. Height, weight, and ethnicity were ascertained through self-report. The results call into question whether rates of overweight or obesity in Native-American adolescents are disproportionate relative to those for Caucasian and African-American adolescents. Cumulative comparisons of all overweight and obese adolescents in the sample (n = 5,655) show significant differences among ethnic groups, but age-specific comparisons do not yield a consistent pattern, especially for Native-American girls. To compare the entire sample to national weight standards, we plotted mean body mass index (BMI) for each ethnic group by age against NHANES II reference data. Age- specific BMI means for Native-American and Caucasian girls fell largely below the NHANES II reference data. We present several explanations for these results. Given the study limitations, further objective study of the weight status of Native-American children and adolescents in direct comparison with other ethnic groups is recommended.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health