Obesity and Health Risk of Children in the Mississippi Delta

Assessing the impact of health policies, this study suggests, requires consistent measures of multiple weight-related outcomes, including BMI and waist-to-height ratio.

Mississippi Delta adults and youth report obesity rates exceeding state and national rates.

Information from 11 public schools within two counties was collected between November 2009 and February 2010. A cross-sectional investigation of 1,136 children in first through fifth grades, representing three school districts, was conducted. Student’s total body weight and height were measured to calculate BMI. Waist circumference was measured using a measuring tape, and was used to calculate WHtR.

Key Findings:

  • Overweight and obese participants represented 47.1 percent of total participants, according to BMI.
  • The mean WHtR was 0.505, where WHtR over 0.5 is considered at-risk for weight-related chronic disease. Forty-two percent of students were at risk based on their WHtR.
  • Significant differences existed between the three school districts included in the sample. The districts with a majority of Black students reported higher on all weight-related measures.

Requiring weight-related health risk, as measured by WHtR, to be assessed regularly may help schools better evaluate their school health policies aimed at reversing childhood obesity.