• BMI cutoffs;
  • body mass index;
  • children;
  • overweight;
  • underweight

Objective:  (i) To determine the prevalence of over- and under-nutrition in both inpatients and outpatients in a tertiary paediatric hospital; (ii) to compare the prevalence of over-nutrition with that in the Australian community and (iii) to determine whether nutritional status has an impact on length of stay in hospital.

Methods:  Patients aged over 12 months were proportionately sampled from medical and surgical wards and outpatient clinics. Data were collected for 245 inpatients (54% male) and 272 outpatients (55% male). Children's height, weight and body mass index (kg/m2) were measured. Overweight, obesity and under-nutrition were defined according to international criteria. Prevalence of overweight and obesity was compared with that in the 1995 Australian National Nutrition Survey (NNS).

Results:  Similar proportions of inpatients and outpatients were underweight (6%) and wasted (4%). The prevalence of overweight and obesity in inpatients (22%) was similar to the NNS but was significantly higher in outpatients (32%, P < 0.0001). In a regression model to predict inpatient length of stay, nutritional status (P = 0.004) and the interaction between age and nutritional status (P = 0.009) were significant predictors. For over-nourished inpatients, length of stay increased significantly with age. For normally nourished and under-nourished inpatients, length of stay was relatively constant, regardless of age.

Conclusions:  There is a high prevalence of over-nutrition in paediatric patients, and increased length of stay for older over-nourished inpatients. These issues need to be addressed in terms of opportunities for intervention and impact on hospital resources.