Obesity rates and waist-to-height ratios in Aboriginal children in NSW are increasing at a higher rate than those in non-Indigenous children, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Dr Louise Hardy, senior research fellow in the Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Research Group at the University of Sydney, and her coauthors reported on trends in the weight status of Aboriginal children compared with non-Aboriginal children aged 5 to 16 years in NSW schools using survey data from 1997, 2004 and 2010.
The researchers calculated body mass index and waist-to-height ratios (WtHr) using data from each survey and, for the 2010 survey, also assessed indicators of diet, recreational screen time and physical activity.
They found that between 1997 and 2010, the relative increase in the prevalence of overweight/obesity and WtHr of 0.5 or more in Aboriginal children was 22.4% and 113.6%, respectively. For non-Aboriginal children, the rates were 11.8% and 3.4%, respectively.
"[In 2010] Aboriginal children had 1.52 greater odds of having a WtHr ≥ 0.5 than non-Aboriginal children", the authors wrote.
The 2010 data also showed that Aboriginal children had 0.72 lower odds of eating breakfast daily, 1.61 greater odds of daily soft drink consumption, 2.75 greater odds of having a television in their bedroom, 1.34 greater odds of having no screen time rules, and 1.78 greater odds of exceeding screen time recommendations on weekdays.
The researchers found that in 2010 almost one in three NSW Aboriginal children aged 5 to 16 years was overweight/obese and nearly one in five had WtHr ≥ 0.5, which equated to a 52% greater chance of developing central adiposity, associated with cardiometabolic ill health, than non-Aboriginal children.
"Given there is strong evidence that childhood obesity leads to adult obesity and related comorbidities, and behaviour including sedentariness and physical activity track into adulthood, child obesity prevention programs must be prioritised and such programs must also be culturally relevant and engaging for Aboriginal children ", the authors wrote.