Sep 23, 2014 11:45 PM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

There’s a lot of talk about the childhood obesity epidemic. So what exactly is the problem? “Approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents ages two to 19 were obese as of 2013,” says Nathan Bexfield, MD, a pediatrician at University of Utah Health. “The long-term consequences of that are pretty serious—diabetes and heart disease among them.”

How do you know whether you have anything to worry about? Keep track of your child’s body mass index (BMI) percentile. Because the formula takes into account age and gender, it can tell you how your child literally measures up with peers. (This is not the same formula used to calculate an adult’s BMI.) A healthy range is between the 5th and 85th percentile. “An overweight child has a BMI of 85th to 94th percentile for age.  An obese child is in the 95th percentile or greater,” Bexfield says.

Here’s how to find out where your child stands:

  1. Download our tracker.
  2. Measure and record your child’s weight and height (see tracker’s advice to get it right).
  3. Enter the information into an online calculator to get your child’s BMI number and percentile. Record the numbers on the tracker.
  4. Repeat every six months.

If there are sharp peaks and valleys or if you’re concerned about where your child is on the scale, talk to your pediatrician. 

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