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Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Study Finds Healthy-Weight Children Might Be at Risk for Obesity

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital logoA recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital shows that when it comes to counseling for weight management, pediatricians and parents and may be neglecting healthy-weight kids.

The study, led by Raquel G. Hernandez M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., medical director of the hospital’s Healthy Weight Initiative, was published recently in the journal Childhood Obesity and found that fewer healthy weight kids are engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors, possibly putting their future health at risk.

The children studied were aged six to seven years old and selected from a national data set called the Early Childhood Longitudinal study. The data collected in 1999 and 2010 showed that overweight children are engaging in healthy behaviors more often than they did a decade ago, while healthy-weight children are practicing fewer healthy behaviors.

Healthy behaviors include eating breakfast daily, having dinner as a family at least five days per week, participating in regular physical activity, sleeping an appropriate number of hours of per night and limiting screen time to less than two hours per day.

“This is an unexpected finding that suggests that we may not be setting up the next generation of healthy weight kids to remain at a healthy weight if we are not encouraging healthy behaviors during medical encounters,” said Hernandez. “This study shows that we should be proactive in keeping those kids who are healthy weight that way for as long as possible.”

Additionally, the study found Latino children who were at a healthy weight had the greatest decline in healthy lifestyle behaviors. The findings indicate that by not encouraging healthy behaviors, there may be missed opportunities to keep this particular group of children at a healthy weight.

“It is especially concerning to learn from this research that Latino children may be at an increased risk for being overweight and obese in the future,” adds Hernandez. “We hope to also study whether the decline in healthy lifestyle behaviors can be attributed to language issues, access to health care or other social determinants.”

Hernandez adds that the study is a modest step in understanding how to improve healthy lifestyle counseling with children and their families. Researchers hope these findings will help pediatricians address the growing obesity epidemic by customizing counseling in order to assist children in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight.

St. Petersburg, Fla. – June 24, 2019 – This study was funded by a Johns Hopkins All Children’s Research Foundation Institutional Research grant. Additional authors include Janelle T. Garcia of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, FL, Ph.D., and Ernest K. Amankwah of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. 


About Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg is a leader in children’s health care, combining a legacy of compassionate care focused solely on children since 1926 with the innovation and experience of one of the world’s leading health care systems. The 259-bed teaching hospital stands at the forefront of discovery, leading innovative research to cure and prevent childhood diseases while training the next generation of pediatric experts. With a network of Johns Hopkins All Childrens Outpatient Care centers and collaborative care provided by All Childrens Specialty Physicians at regional hospitals, Johns Hopkins All Childrens brings care closer to home. Johns Hopkins All Childrens Hospital consistently keeps the patient and family at the center of care while continuing to expand its mission in treatment, research, education and advocacy. For more information, visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org.

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