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This is part of our Latina Mom and Baby Health: A Research Review »
In the United States, obesity continues to be a nationwide problem, where Latino children and adolescents are particularly at risk. According to a recent estimate, nearly 40 percent of U.S. Latino youths ages 2-19 are overweight or obese, compared with only 28.5 percent of non-Latino white youths.1 Furthermore, the percentage of those who are overweight or obese between ages 2-5 is nearly 30 percent for Latino children compared with only 21 percent of non-Latino white children.1
The high prevalence of obesity among Latino children and adolescents is of great concern due to the numerous adverse physical and mental health issues related to obesity, such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, sleep apnea, and psychological stress.2
As overweight or obese children are more likely to suffer from an unhealthy weight in adulthood, childhood is a critical developmental stage for preventing and/or reducing lifelong obesity.2
The risk of obesity can be affected by a number of variables early in life, spanning from before birth to infancy and early childhood. In fact, levels of physical activity among pregnant mothers and factors influencing duration of breastfeeding or formula use may already influence the likelihood of obesity in the child. Current or prospective policies supporting breastfeeding, physical activity, and a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables for both mother and child may help the child to establish healthy habits from an early age. Developing a foundation for healthy behaviors will be crucial to overcoming the epidemic of childhood obesity among Latino children.
Due to the higher rates of childhood obesity among young people of racial and ethnic backgrounds, efforts to ensure that obesity is addressed from an early age are of crucial importance Among these efforts, one main objective is that all children are prepared to enter kindergarten at a healthy weight.3
As such, this research review is designed to outline factors affecting obesity rates among Latino youths and interventions or policies that may help these children to achieve a healthy weight prior to entering kindergarten.
This research review summarizes current, peer-reviewed scientific literature regarding the influence of breastfeeding policies, physical activity during pregnancy, healthy eating and physical activity during childcare, paid maternity leave, pre-delivery strategies, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC), formula marketing, and health care insurance on issues related to overweight and obesity in Latino infants and preschool children.
Keyword searches were conducted in PubMed and Google Scholar. Databases were searched with key terms such as: “breastfeeding policy AND Latino childhood obesity,” “breastfeeding policy AND obesity AND Hispanic,” “breastfeeding policy AND childhood obesity,” or “breastfeeding policy AND BMI AND Latino AND children.” Variations of terms, including variants of the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic,” were used throughout the literature search.
Article titles and abstracts were examined, and relevant articles were retrieved, independent of the study’s conclusions regarding Latino childhood obesity.
Additional articles were identified through the reference lists of the initial set of publications. Further sources of evidence included reports from governmental agencies and other relevant stakeholders and peer-reviewed, published review articles.
Searches were confined to the English language and were not restricted by study design.
More from our Latina Mom and Baby Health: A Research Review »
- Introduction & Methods (this section)
- Key Research Finding: Maternal obesity
- Key Research Finding: Breastfeeding
- Key Research Finding: Breastfeeding promotion
- Key Research Finding: Marketing of infant formula
- Key Research Finding: Latino infant habits
- Key Research Finding: Early childcare settings
- Policy Implications
- Future Research Needs
References for this section »
1. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(8):806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732.
2. Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Childhood: Basics – DNPAO – CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/basics.html. Accessed May 19, 2015.
3. RWJF Statement on Proposed Revisions to the Child and Adult Care Food Program. RWJF. http://www.rwjf.org/en/library/articles-and-news/2015/04/rwjf-statement-child-and-adult-care-food-program.html. Accessed May 19, 2015.