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Title: Obesity in looked after children: is foster care protective from the dangers of obesity?

Study Location: United Kingdom

Type of Paper: Original Article

Purpose: To review growth data of all children, over 5 years of age, from entry into foster care in the Local Authority. The review assessed the onset of obesity and the relationship with entry into care, duration in care and frequency of changes in care.

Measures: Body mass index (BMI), age

Participants: 106 looked after children over 5 years old, 52% boys and 48% girls. Children were excluded if they had a significant disability or endocrine disorder.

Methods: Children received annual health assessments taken by a general practitioner over the course of one calendar year. Growth measurements and BMI were taken and calculated during the health assessment visits and plotted on standardized growth charts. Data on each child were separated into 4 groups: pre-care, 1st-year in care, 1-3 years in care, and over 3 years in care.

Results: Overweight and obesity was not associated with age of entry into care or number of changes in care. Length of time in care was related to overweight/obesity. Eighty-one percent of children had normal BMI upon entry into care, which shifted to only 60% with normal BMI upon longer periods in care. Only 8.1% of children were obese in pre-care, whereas 35.9% of children who had been in care for over 3 years were obese.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that a large percentage of children became overweight or obese while in foster care. However, this may be a result of children aging and following the trend of increasing obesity in the general population.

Limitations: Data were not complete on all children at each time period.

Citation/Reference: Hadfield, S.C. & Preece, P.M. Obesity in looked after children: is foster care protective from the dangers of obesity? Child: care, health and development. 2008; 34(6): 710-712. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18959567

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