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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


NUNEZ-RIVAS, Hilda Patricia; MONGE-ROJAS, Rafael; LEON, Hania  and  ROSELLO, Marlen. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among Costa Rican elementary school children. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2003, vol.13, n.1, pp.24-32. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: Given that excessive body weight during childhood influences the development of several chronic diseases in adulthood, this study was conducted to determine the prevalence of overweight and obesity in urban and rural Costa Rican elementary school children. METHODS: The study was carried out from July 2000 to April 2001. A total of 1718 students ages 7-12 were selected from 34 schools in the capital city of San José and in other nearby urban and rural areas. Both younger children (ones aged 7 through 9 years) and older children (ones aged 10 through 12 years) with a body mass index (BMI) at or above the sex-specific 85th percentile were considered overweight. The younger children were classified as being obese if their triceps skinfold was greater than or equal to the 85th percentile for age and sex using the percentiles by age for children in the United States of America as normative standards. The older children were considered obese if they had a BMI at or above the sex-specific 85th percentile and both the triceps and subscapular skinfold thickness at or above the 90th percentile. RESULTS: The prevalence of overweight was 34.5%. Children aged 7-9, boys, children from urban areas, and children of a higher socioeconomic status had a higher prevalence of overweight. The prevalence of obesity was 26.2%. A higher prevalence of obesity was found among children aged 7-9, boys, children from urban areas, and children of middle socioeconomic status. CONCLUSIONS: Given the high prevalence of obesity that we found in the Costa Rican children, primary and secondary prevention measures are needed in order to reduce the proportion of deaths due to chronic nontransmissible diseases among Costa Rican adults in the coming decades.

Keywords : Child; body mass index; obesity; risk factors; Costa Rica.

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