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January 2007

Resource Utilization and Expenditures for Overweight and Obese Children

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of General Pediatrics (Dr Hampl), Patient Care Services (Dr Carroll), Research and Grants Administration (Dr Simon), and Dermatology (Dr Sharma), Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(1):11-14. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.1.11

Objectives  To compare health care utilization and expenditures for healthy-weight patients, overweight patients, and patients with diagnosed and undiagnosed obesity and to examine factors associated with a diagnosis of obesity.

Design  Retrospective study using claims data from a large pediatric integrated delivery system.

Setting  An urban academic children's hospital.

Participants  Children aged 5 to 18 years who presented to a primary care clinic for well-child care visits during the calendar years 2002 and 2003 and who were followed up for 12 months.

Main Outcome Measures  Diagnosis of obesity, primary care visits, emergency department visits, laboratory use, and health care charges.

Results  Of 8404 patients, 57.9% were 10 years or older, 61.2% were African American, and 72.9% were insured by Medicaid. According to the criteria of body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters), 17.8% were overweight and 21.9% were obese. Of the obese children, 42.9% had a diagnosis of obesity. Increased laboratory use was found in both children with diagnosed obesity (odds ratio [OR], 5.49; 95% confidence interval [CI], 4.65-6.48) and children with undiagnosed obesity (OR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.97-2.74), relative to the healthy-weight group. Health care expenditures were significantly higher for children with diagnosed obesity (adjusted mean difference, $172; 95% CI, $138-$206) vs the healthy-weight group. Factors associated with the diagnosis of obesity were age 10 years and older (OR, 2.7; 95% CI, 2.0-3.4), female sex (OR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.2-1.8), and having Medicaid (OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.3).

Conclusions  Increased health care utilization and charges reported in obese adults are also present in obese children. Most children with obesity had not been diagnosed as having obesity in this administrative data set.