Study Location: Utah, USA
Type of Paper: Original Article; Database Review
Purpose: To describe the medical and mental health of children entering foster care on a statewide level.
- Physical growth: standard anthropometry [height and weight]. The method used to calculate percentile scores was not described.
- Given the increase in overweight/ obesity in the US, this study examined the prevalence of overweight/obesity in foster children.
Participants: 6177 children whose health screening at entry into foster care was entered into a statewide database that contains health screening information for all children in the state entering foster care. 40% of the children were under 6 years old.
Methods: Review of the initial health screening of all children entering foster care in the state of Utah. Information was gathered from a statewide database.
Nutrition Results (Physical Growth):
- Less than 5% of the children under 5 years old were diagnosed with failure to thrive. A greater number of children had growth deficits (i.e., low weight or height for their age). The following number of childre were below the 3rd percentile:
- Weight: 12% of children between 12 months and 2 years of age. 10% of children between 2 and 5 years of age.
- Height: 7% of children between 2 and 5 years old.
- Overweight/obesity (BMI 85th percentile) was common in children over 3 years old. 35% were overweight or obese (overweight was not reported in children younger than 3 years old).
Conclusions & Clinical Implications: This study found a high rate of overweight/obesity in older children (>3 years old) entering foster care. This study also found a lower prevalence of growth deficits (low weight or height for age) in children under 5 years old compared to previous reports of children entering foster care. The authors suggest that this low prevalence of growth deficits may be due to including children on a statewide level in this study, whereas previous studies of children living in foster care have often reported on children from a single clinic, which may have a higher rate of high-risk children.
Limitations of the Nutritional Results: No significant limitations.
Reference: Steele JS, Buchi KF. Medical and mental health of children entering the Utah foster care system. Pediatrics. 2008;122 (3) : e703-e709. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18762506