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Childhood Obesity: Not My Kid

Most Parents Think Childhood Obesity Is a Problem -- but Not in Their Child
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 25, 2007 -- A new poll shows a disconnect between parents' general views of childhood obesity and obesity in their own children.

Consumer Reports polled 609 parents of children and teens aged 5 to 17 nationwide. The poll was conducted by telephone in late June.

The vast majority of parents -- 91% -- indicated that being overweight or obese is a problem among children and teens. Nearly as many parents -- 87% -- noted that childhood obesity has become more common.

But when the poll questions hit closer to home, parents' views changed.

The parents were asked if they thought their child was underweight, at their ideal weight, slightly overweight, or overweight (defined as being at least 20% over their ideal weight).

More than two-thirds of the parents -- 68% -- said their child was at their ideal weight. Twenty-one percent said their child was slightly overweight or overweight; 10% said their child was underweight, and 1% said they didn't know.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

Checking Children's BMI

The parents also reported their child's height and weight. If they had more than one child, they focused their answers on only one of their children.

Using those height and weight figures, Consumer Reports calculated the children's BMI (body mass index) and checked the BMI data against the CDC's standards for overweight children. The CDC doesn't have a BMI category for obese children and teens.

Based on BMI, 36% of the children were overweight or close to the CDC's threshold for overweight children.

To get more specific, the BMI data show that 19% of the children were at least 20% over their ideal weight, while only 4% of the parents thought so. In addition, half of the parents of children with BMIs indicating overweight thought that their child was at their ideal weight.

In short, some parents apparently underestimated their children's weight status.

Children's Weight, Children's Doctors

The parents were asked if a doctor had suggested weight loss for their child or teen. Overall, 9% of the parents said yes.

Even among parents whose children were more than 20% over their ideal weight, only about half of the parents said a doctor had recommended weight loss for that child.

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