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  1. Adams, Alexandra MD, PhD
  2. Prince, Ronald MS


Background: Obesity is a serious and growing health problem in American Indian (AI) children. Our study, the Wisconsin Nutrition and Growth Study, aimed to understand the prevalence and contributing factors to pediatric obesity in Wisconsin tribes and provide the foundation for intervention design.


Objective: This article focuses on associations among age, gender, and 3 measures of weight status with proxy-reported physical activity and TV/screen time in 3 to 8 year-old AI children.


Design/Methods: In a cross-sectional design, 581 AI children (49.1% female, aged 3-8 years) participated in health screenings that included height, weight, waist circumference, percent body fat, and a caregiver survey on demographics and health, with questions on physical activity and TV/screen time.


Results: Forty-five percent of children were overweight or obese. Boys were significantly more obese and had higher levels of body fat than girls. There were no differences in weight category across age groups. Boys participated in significantly more weekly sports than girls and sports participation was somewhat higher in younger children. Body mass index and waist circumference were not significantly correlated with TV/screen time or with the 3 activity measures (sports participation, outdoor play time, or physical education classes). Hours of outdoor play significantly predicted child body fat percentage controlling for maternal body mass index and child age and gender.


Conclusions: Young AI children in Wisconsin have high rates of overweight/obesity starting at a very early age, and outdoor play may play a significant role in mediating body fat. There is a need to develop obesity-prevention interventions at early ages.