Background

The latest national data have shown a significant increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity from 16.9% in 2011-2012 to 18.5% in 2015-2016. It is not known if trends of childhood obesity in New York City (NYC) are similar to those reported nationally in recent years. The purpose of this study was to estimate population-level prevalence of obesity and severe obesity for New York City (NYC) youth and examine the most recent trends over time.

Methods

The sample consisted of all public school children in grades K-8 (2011-2012 through 2016-2017) with valid weight and height measures (N=1,137,782 unique students; 3,720,297 observations). Age- and sex-specific body mass index percentiles for obesity and severe obesity were estimated using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts. Repeated cross sectional analyses were conducted using logistic regression, weighting for missing/invalid responses, and accounting for clustering by students and schools to examine trends over time and by sociodemographics.

Results

Among youth in grades K-8 (aged 5-15 years, 48.8% girls), the prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in 2016-2017 was 20.2% and 6.0%, respectively. Since 2011-2012, decreasing trends in obesity and severe obesity (6.0% and 6.3%, respectively, p<.001) were observed, although there remained significant disparities among black, Hispanic, and lower SES youth (3.6%, 2.6%, and 3.7%, respectively, p<.001).

Conclusions

In contrast to national trends, our data showed decreasing obesity and severe obesity among all NYC public school children in grades K-8 from 2011-2012 to 2016-2017, extending trends previously reported for NYC school-aged youth from 2006-2007 to 2010-2011. Although these findings are promising, persistent disparities by race/ethnicity and poverty highlight the need to improve intervention design and implementation strategies for groups disproportionately burdened by obesity.