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Obese Children May Miss More School

Study Links Childhood Obesity to Worse School Attendance
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 10, 2007 -- As the new school year approaches, new research suggests that childhood obesity may hamper school attendance.

"As the rate of childhood obesity increases, parallel increases in school absenteeism should be expected," warn Temple University's Andrew Geier, PhD, and colleagues in the journal Obesity.

Geier's team studied fourth- to sixth-grade students at nine inner-city Philadelphia elementary schools.

The students -- who were about 11 years old, on average -- got their height and weight measured at school. The researchers calculated the kids' BMI (body mass index), which relates height to weight.

Based on BMI, 2% of the children were underweight, 58% were normal weight, 17% were overweight, and 23% were what the researchers consider obese, meaning those children's BMI was greater than or equal to the BMI of 95% of kids their age.

The kids' school attendance records show that the obese children missed 12 days of school during the school year, compared with 10 days for kids with normal weight.

The students' age, sex, and race didn't explain the findings.

The researchers don't know why the children missed school. The data doesn't show the reasons why any of the students -- obese or not -- missed school.

Perhaps obese kids missed more school due to illnesses. Or maybe they skipped school because they had been bullied by other kids, Geier's team suggests.

The findings may highlight a hitch in school-based efforts to curb children's weight problems.

"Those who would benefit the most from the interventions may be least present to receive them," write Geier and colleagues.

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