Describing the growth and rapid weight gain of urban Australian Aboriginal infants

Authors

  • Vana Webster,

    Corresponding author
    • Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
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  • Elizabeth Denney-Wilson,

    1. Faculty of Health, Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health, University of Technology, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Jennifer Knight,

    1. Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
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  • Elizabeth Comino,

    1. Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation, Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales
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  • Gudaga Research Team

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    • The Gudaga Research Team comprises Associate Professor Elizabeth Comino, Dr Pippa Craig, Dr Elizabeth Harris, Professor Mark Harris, Professor Richard Henry, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Associate Professor Lynn Kemp, Dr Kelvin Kong, Associate Professor Dennis McDermott, Professor Peter Smith (Chief Investigators); Alison Derrett, Dr Bin Jalaludin, Brendon Kelaher, Dr Jenny McDonald, Sharon Nicholson, Vicki Wade, Darryl Wright (Associate Investigators); Dr Jennifer Knight (Project Manager), Vana Webster (Research Associate), Cheryl Jane Anderson and Heidi Sainsbury (Project Officers).

  • Conflict of interest: None.
  • Funding: The National Health and Medical Research Council.
  • The use of the term ‘Aboriginal’ is in recognition of the preference of the Aboriginal community in south-west Sydney. While we recognise that this word may also apply to people of Torres Strait Islander background, the majority of the community in the region is of Aboriginal origin. Use of this term is also in line with NSW Health policy.

Correspondence: Dr Elizabeth Comino , Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation, Liverpool Hospital, Locked Bag 7103, Liverpool BC, NSW 1871, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9612 0762; email: e.comino@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Aim

The aims of this paper are to describe the growth of urban Australian Aboriginal infants from birth to 24 months of age and to identify the proportion of these infants experiencing rapid weight gain (RWG) and overweight/obesity.

Methods

The Gudaga Study is a longitudinal birth cohort of 159 Australian Aboriginal children born on the urban fringe of Sydney. Birthweight and length were extracted from hospital data. Children with a birthweight >1500 grams were included in the analysis (n = 157). Weight, length and head circumference were measured at 2–3 weeks and then six-monthly until 24 months of age. Age- and gender-specific Z-scores were determined from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 2000 growth charts for weight, length, head circumference and body mass index (BMI). The proportion of children experiencing RWG (an increase in weight-for-age Z-scores ≥0.67 between birth and 12 months) was calculated. The association between RWG and ≥85th CDC percentile for BMI at 24 months was tested using Pearson's χ2.

Results

The mean weight of Gudaga infants was less than the CDC mean length-for-age at birth and 2–3 weeks of age but greater than CDC mean length-for-age and weight-for-age at 18 and 24 months of age. Overall, 42 infants (34.4%) experienced RWG, and 45 infants (36.9%) were overweight/obese at 24 months of age. A greater proportion of those who experienced RWG (61.9%) were overweight/obese at 24 months than those who did not experience RWG (23.8%).

Conclusion

Our study suggests a concerning proportion of urban Indigenous infants experience RWG and overweight/obesity in early childhood.

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