Childhood Obesity and KidCheck screening in Alabama schools

Obesity Working Group chair Bonnie Sanderson takes a closer look at KidCheck data

Boy holding peach
Boy holding peach

Nationwide, nearly one third of school-aged children are considered overweight or obese. In at least one county in Alabama that percentage is much higher, according to the KidCheck project.

KidCheck is an outreach project that partners schools of nursing with public school systems to provide health screening for school-age children and identify health issues that might interfere with learning.

Bonnie Sanderson, an Auburn University School of Nursing professor and member of AUFSI’s Obesity Working Group, used 2012 KidCheck screening data to zero in on the prevalence of overweight and obese students in one countywide school system. The system, with six schools, serves primarily African- American children.

Sanderson and her team discovered that 45 percent of the students were already overweight or obese. Sanderson said this is cause for concern because Alabama is the second most state and ranks 14th in childhood obesity, with rates higher among low-income, rural and minority populations.

“A review of the KidCheck data indicates the need for stronger emphasis on excessive weight gain in the early childhood years if Alabama is going to address the epidemic rate of obesity in adults.,” Sanderson said.

One of the purposes of the study was to compare proportions of overweight and obese children between age groups for boys and girls and between girls and boy within each age group.

The review of KidCheck data showed that among 4- to 8-year-olds, girls were more likely than boys to be obese (28 percent compared to 21 percent). Older boys and girls were about equal in rates of being overweight or obese. For girls, the proportions of underweight, healthy, overweight and obese were similar between age groups. In boys, however, the 9- to 12-year-old group was more likely to be obese (32 percent) compared to other age groups (21 percent for 4- to 8-year-olds and 24 percent for 13- to 19-year-olds).

In addition, only 49 percent of 9- to 12-year-olds were at a healthy weight. This compared to 58 percent of the 4- to -8-year-olds and 57.5 percent of the 13- to 19-year-olds.

Sanderson’s team included another Obesity Working Group member, Chih-hsuan Wang from the College of Education. Other team members were Jenny Schuessler, Constance Hendricks and Barbara Wilder from the School of Nursing.

KidCheck has been implemented in 43 Alabama school systems in conjunction with more than 20 Alabama nursing programs. Screenings take place in school gyms with eight to10 stations that record height, weight, body mass index, temperature, blood pressure and heart and respiratory rates along with vision and dental screenings and eye, ears, nose and throat exams. Sight Savers provides follow-up care for children that need additional vision assistance.