Objective. The Expert Panel on Blood Cholesterol Levels in Children and Adolescents of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends selective screening of children for high blood cholesterol. We determined the number of children, who, according to the guidelines, should be targeted for cholesterol screening.

Design. Population survey.

Setting. Permanent household residents in Otsego County, NY.

Participants. Total population-based sample of 17 444 households (86.6% response rate) including 44 565 participants, of whom 10 457 were children, aged 2 through 19 years.

Main outcome measures. Percent of children qualifying for cholesterol screening under the NCEP Children's Panel guidelines.

Results. Children from two-parent families were more likely to have known family history of coronary heart disease (CHD) before 60 years of age (41.8% vs 25.8%, P < .001), and twice as likely as children from single-parent families to have known parental hypercholesterolemia (18.8% vs 9.5%, P < .001). Only 39% of parents reported having had their cholesterol level checked; they were better educated and more likely to have health insurance. Parents with a first-degree relative with CHD before 60 years of age were more likely to report having their cholesterol level checked and to report a high cholesterol level. We calculated that 27% of children (18% of children from single-parent households and 29% of children from two-parent households) would report a known family history of premature CHD (ie, CHD before 55 years of age) and qualify for lipoprotein analysis, and that 11% of children would qualify for total cholesterol screening because of known parental hypercholesterolemia without a family history of premature CHD. Thirty-five percent of children had incomplete or unavailable family health history and/or unknown parental cholesterol status.

Conclusions. In this population, 38% of children would be targeted for cholesterol screening, exceeding the estimate of the NCEP Children and Adolescents Panel. The selection process, however, would tend to miss children from single-parent families, children with incomplete family health history, and children whose parents have not had their cholesterol levels measured. The currently recommended pediatric cholesterol screening policy needs to be evaluated further in additional communities and population settings. Alternative cholesterol screening strategies are needed when family health history is incomplete and/or parental cholesterol status is unknown.

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