UMMS study on childhood obesity perception a wake-up call; covered by national media

Findings show many obese children and their parents don’t think they are overweight

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

August 11, 2014

Many obese children don’t think that they are overweight, and most of their parents agree with them. Researchers at UMass Medical School were surprised by these findings, which were reported by national news media including ABC News’ Good Morning America, Reuters Health and MedicalXpress.com.

"Efforts to prevent childhood obesity should incorporate education for both children and parents regarding the proper identification and interpretation of actual body weight," said lead researcher Han-Yang Chen, MS, a doctoral student in the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences who led the study with faculty from the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine.

Published by the Centers for Disease Control in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, the study found that among more than 2,500 kids and their parents conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2010, 27 percent of obese children and adolescents underestimated their weight status. Similarly, 25 percent of parents underestimated their obese child’s weight status.

Chen and colleagues also examined the extent to which accurate personal and parental perception of weight status is associated with self-reported attempted weight loss. They found that overweight and obese kids who correctly estimated their weight status were about three times as likely to be trying to lose weight as those who underestimated.

"Interventions for appropriate weight loss should target children directly because one of the major driving forces to lose weight comes from the child's perception of their weight," Chan concluded.

Read the study here and full news coverage at the links below.

ABC News: Experts Saying Parents Are Underestimating the Weight of Their Children

Reuters: Target self-perceptions to help kids with healthy weight loss: study

Medical Xpress: 1 in 4 U.S.kids underestimate their weight, study finds