Trends of overweight and obesity among white and american indian school children in south dakota, 1998–2010


  • Disclosure: The author declared no conflict of interest.

  • Funding agencies: This research was sponsored by Grant Number #18MC00046 from the State Systems Development Initiative of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration of HHS.



To investigate the prevalence of overweight and obesity among white and American Indian children in a predominantly rural state.

Design and Methods:

Using a repeated, cross-sectional design of school children's height and weight, the study sample included 361,352 measures of children who were 5.0–19.9 years, attending school across 13 academic calendar years. Trained staff measured height, weight, and recorded gender, age, and race. Data were voluntarily reported to the State Department of Health.


American Indian children consistently had higher rates of overweight and obesity compared to white children. Across the years, 16.3% of white students were overweight, whereas 19.3% of American Indian students were overweight. In addition, 14.5% of white children were obese and 25.9% of American Indian children were obese. Examining by rural versus urban schools, prevalence of overweight had been increasing among white male and female students and American Indian female students living in rural areas. Obesity is also increasing among rural white females and male and female American Indian children.


The findings here suggest that although American Indian children are at higher risk, in general, compared to white children, rural populations in general are experiencing increases in childhood overweight and obesity. Targeted rural interventions beginning at an early age are necessary to improve the health of rural children, especially in American Indian communities.