Abdominal Adiposity and Caregiver Recall of Healthcare Provider Identification of Child Overweight in the United States, 2001-2010

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Childhood Obesity






Background: A minority of overweight or obese children are identified as such by a healthcare provider (HCP). The aim of this study was to examine characteristics of caregiver-reported HCP identification of overweight or obesity and whether it is associated with children's waist circumference (WC).

Methods: This was an observational study using a nationally representative sample of 14,694 children (2-15 years of age) from the 2001-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Proxy respondents (i.e., caregivers) for 4906 overweight or obese (BMI≥85th percentile) children reported whether an HCP had ever told them that their child was overweight. Multi-variable logistic regression analyses were used to examine associations between reported HCP identification of overweight and child sociodemographic and anthropometric characteristics.

Results: Over 75% of caregivers of overweight or obese children did not recall being notified of their child's weight status by an HCP, though this proportion has decreased over the past decade. A significant WC by weight status interaction indicated abdominal adiposity was positively associated with reported HCP identification for obese children, but not for overweight children.

Conclusions: Lower levels of reported HCP identification were observed for overweight children, compared to obese children; among obese children, those with lower levels of abdominal adiposity were less likely to be identified as overweight by an HCP, according to caregivers. Reasons for this finding remain unclear. Providers may be relying on a child's appearance, rather than universally screening all patients for overweight. Additionally, a variety of parent and provider characteristics may influence weight-related communications and caregiver recall of such information.