Recognition of Childhood Overweight during Health Supervision Visits: Does BMI Help Pediatricians?


Department of Pediatrics, Saint Louis University, 1465 South Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63104. E-mail:


Objective: To assess, in diverse pediatric practices, the frequency of overweight/obesity (OW/OB) identification during health supervision visits and its association with BMI curve use.

Research Methods and Procedures: Pediatricians in public and private practice in St. Louis, MO, participated in a study of the care of chronic conditions during health supervision visits. Requested information from 30 visits per pediatrician of children 6 to 17 years of age included the visit note, the growth chart, and a one-page questionnaire about patient demographics and visit content. Pediatricians indicated the presence and discussion of common chronic conditions, including OW/OB. Identification was compared with patient BMI category, and associations between identification and patient and visit characteristics, including BMI curve use, were examined.

Results: Twenty-one (40%) of contacted pediatricians returned information from 557 visits. Pediatricians identified OW/OB in 27% of children with a BMI at the 85th to 94th percentile and 86% of children with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile. Identification was higher in adolescents but was not associated with patient sex or race, practice setting, insurance type, or visit length. Only 41% of growth charts were current, and 6.1% had BMI plotted. BMI plotting was associated with OW/OB identification when the BMI was at the 85th to 94th percentile but not when the BMI was at or above the 95th percentile. After controlling for BMI percentile, OW/OB identification was significantly associated with diet counseling (odds ratio, 7.46; 95% confidence interval, 3.42 to 16.24) and exercise counseling (odds ratio, 5.57; 95% confidence interval, 2.61 to 11.90).

Discussion: Despite low BMI curve use, pediatricians recognized most overweight/obese children with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile. BMI plotting may increase recognition in mildly overweight children.