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Keywords:

  • children;
  • ethnicity;
  • obesity;
  • overweight;
  • socio-economic status

Aims:  To trial the collection of measurements to provide population-based prevalence of overweight and obesity in school children in western Sydney and examine the association between healthy weight and ethnicity and socio-economic status (SES) in a socio-economically and culturally diverse population.

Methods:  A cross-sectional population-based survey of 2341 children in Years 4 and 7 (mean ages 9 and 12 years, respectively) in 2007.

Results:  Nineteen per cent of children were overweight and a further 6% were obese. The prevalence of combined overweight and obesity was similar for boys and girls (26% vs. 24%, P= 0.35). SES was significantly associated with the prevalence of unhealthy weight: the odds of being overweight or obese were 1.79 times (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.35 to 2.36) higher for children from the lowest quartile than for children from the highest quartile. Compared to children from an English speaking background, children from a non-English speaking background were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese (21% vs. 31%, P < 0.001). The prevalence of combined overweight and obesity was significantly higher for children from a Pacific Island (odds ratio (OR) 2.66, 95% CI 1.63 to 4.33), Middle Eastern (OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.22 to 2.17) or European (OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.12 to 2.49) background than for English speaking background children.

Conclusion:  Large jumps in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children observed from the 1980s appear to be diminishing, with comparable prevalence reports in 2004 and 2007. Ethnicity and SES are each independently associated with the prevalence of unhealthy weight in children.