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  • CDC: One Third of Youth Misperceive Weight Status

    For many children in the United States, the battle against childhood obesity may be in part a battle of perception: according to a new report, nearly a third of children don't have an accurate view of their own weight status, with 81% of overweight boys and 71% of overweight girls describing themselves as "about the right weight."

    The report (.pdf), issued this week from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says that from 2005 to 2012, 30.2% of children and adolescents aged 8–15 misperceived their weight status. Out of an estimated 9.1 million children and adolescents, 78% characterized themselves as "about the right weight" when they were in fact over or underweight. The remaining 22%, about 2 million of the 9.1 million, were of healthy weight but perceived themselves as too fat or too thin. The findings were based on an analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

    The misperception problem was most prevalent among overweight boys and girls, and varied somewhat according to demographics. Among the findings:

    • Among all weight ranges, misperception of weight status is more common among boys (32.3%) than girls (28%).
    • Weight misperception is lowest among non-Hispanic white children and adolescents (27.7%) and highest among non-Hispanic black children and adolescents (34.4%), with misperception rates of Mexican-American children and adolescents nearly as high, at 34%.
    • In relation to body mass, 87.4% of normal weight youth consider themselves to be about the right weight. That "about right" perception is held by 76% of overweight youth and 41.9% of obese youth.
    • Weight misperception tends to differ by economic status, with a 32.5% misperception rate among youth from lower-income families, compared with a 30.7% rate for middle-income youth and a 26.3% rate for youth from higher-income families.

    "Accurate self-perception of weight status has been linked to appropriate weight control behaviors in youth," write the report's authors. "Understanding the prevalence of weight status misperception among US children and adolescents may help inform public health interventions."

    PTs can provide crucial tests and can assist patients and clients in pursuing the behavioral changes to support achieving a healthy weight, according to Lisa Culver, PT, DPT, MBA, senior specialist for clinical practice at APTA. "Testing for body mass, which includes BMI, is a routine test for physical therapists to perform.” she said. "If we've established that body mass indicates overweight or obesity, we can play an important role in addressing healthy lifestyles, especially getting kids to be more physically active. Physical activity not only assists with loss of and maintenance of the loss of excess body mass, but an individual's level of physical fitness itself is an important and independent indicator of health, in addition to excess body mass."

    APTA offers extensive resources on the PT's role in prevention and wellness, as well as on behavior change in the patient and client.

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