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Obesity Screening in the Pediatric Emergency Department

Vaughn, Lisa M. PhD*; Nabors, Laura PhD; Pelley, Terri J. MA; Hampton, Rebecca R. MD§; Jacquez, Farrah PhD; Mahabee-Gittens, E. Melinda MD, MS*

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e318258ada0
Original Articles

Objectives The purposes of this study were (1) to examine parental perception of childhood obesity and race with measured body mass index (BMI), (2) to determine if parents are receptive to obesity screening in the pediatric emergency department and if receptivity varies by race or weight status, and (3) to determine eating habits that are predictors of obesity.

Methods This study is a cross-sectional study, with a convenience sample of 213 patients (aged 4–16 years accompanied by a parent/legal guardian to a pediatric emergency department). Weight and height were obtained, and parents were asked to complete a survey about perception of their child’s weight, nutrition, and exercise habits.

Results The current study found that parent perception of weight status was fairly accurate, and perception was predictive of BMI. Race, however, was not predictive of BMI. Parents were generally receptive of weight screening in the pediatric emergency department, and this did not vary as a function of weight status; however, receptivity did vary based on ethnicity, with African American parents being more receptive than white parents. Large portion sizes and the number of times a child eats fast food per week were found to be predictive of obesity.

Conclusions Greater than half of the children presenting to our pediatric emergency department were overweight or obese. Parents were generally accurate in their perception of their child’s weight but were still receptive to obesity prevention and screening in the pediatric emergency department.

From the *Division of Emergency Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; †Division of Counseling, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, College of Education; ‡Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati; and §Department of Pediatrics, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Lisa M. Vaughn, PhD, Division of Emergency Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, 3333 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229 (e-mail:

This study has no sources of support.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.