Objective. To determine whether the prevalence of overweight in preschool children has increased among the US low-income population.

Design. Analysis using weight-for-height percentiles of surveillance data adjusted for age, sex, and race or ethnicity.

Setting. Data from 18 states and the District of Columbia were examined.a

Subjects. Low-income children <5 years of age who were included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System.

Results. The prevalence of overweight increased from 18.6% in 1983 to 21.6% in 1995 based on the 85th percentile cutoff point for weight-for-height, and from 8.5% to 10.2% for the same period based on the 95th percentile cutoff point. Analyses by single age, sex, and race or ethnic group (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic) all showed increases in the prevalence of overweight, although changes are greatest for older preschool children.

Conclusion. Overweight is an increasing public health problem among preschool children in the US low-income population. Additional research is needed to explore the cause of the trend observed and to find effective strategies for overweight prevention beginning in the preschool years.

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