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Extended CDC growth charts help track children, adolescents with severe obesity

December 15, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended its growth charts to help pediatricians better monitor the increasing number of children and adolescents with severe obesity.

“Intervening early is critical to improving the health of our children as they grow into adults,” Karen Hacker, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a press release. “…. The new growth charts coupled with high-quality treatment can help optimize care for children with severe obesity.”

The previous body mass index (BMI)-for-age charts created in 2000 track growth among youths ages 2-19 years but were based on data from 1963-1980 and stopped at the 97th percentile.

The extended charts released today were created using 1988-2016 data from nationally representative samples of children and adolescents. They include four new percentile curves above the 95th percentile and can be used to plot BMI up to 60 kilograms/meter squared.

“Pediatric health care providers and researchers can track a child’s trajectory against these new curves that reflect measures of real children with obesity,” Cynthia Ogden, Ph.D., epidemiologist in the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, said via email.

For children at or below the 95th percentile, clinicians should continue to use the growth charts from 2000.

The prevalence of children with obesity has been growing. CDC data from recent years show about 14.7 million children and adolescents (nearly 20%) have obesity, defined as BMI at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts. About 4.5 million youths have severe obesity, defined as BMI at or above 120% of the 95th percentile. The extended charts don’t change those definitions.



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