The Immigration and Health Paradox: Obesity in Multiethnic Young Children

By Ruby Natale, Sarah E. Messiah, Jennifer Barth, Gabriela Lopez-Mitnik, Lee Sanders and Melissa Noya.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The rising U.S. obesity prevalence has disproportionately affected minority children. Previous studies have reported that among African American U.S.-born participants, those with foreign-born parents were significantly less likely to be obese than individuals with U.S.-born parents. Little is known about the children of Hispanic immigrants from Central and South America, and among 2-5 year olds in particular. The current study examined demographic characteristics of 307 children ages 2-5 years old who participated in a randomized controlled obesity prevention intervention trial in 8 child care centers in Miami, Florida. Anthropometric data collected included weight, height, waist circumference, and body mass index (BMI). Overweight was defined as >95th %ile for age and at-risk for overweight was defined as >85th to <95th percentile, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Obese children were significantly more likely to be born in the US than another country (p<0.0001). Girls were equally as likely as boys to be overweight; 31% of the sample had a BMI >85th percentile. Children of Central American immigrants were significantly more likely than children of Cuban or Caribbean immigrant parents to be obese (p<0.01). Obesity prevention interventions need to target children as young as preschool age and should be tailored to the child’s ethnic background, particularly if the child was born in the U.S. and the parents were not.

Keywords: Obesity Prevention, Childhood Obesity, Ethnicity and Obesity, Gender and Obesity

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.17-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.050MB).

Dr. Ruby Natale

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA

Dr. Natale is faculty member and assistant professor of Pediatrics at one of the largest hospitals in Miami, Florida. She is a licensed clinical psychologist. Her work has focused on prevention efforts in working with a population of young children ages 3-5 years old. Dr. Natale is the Project Director of an obesity prevention project called “Healthy Inside-Healthy Outside”. This program is designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight children by changing the nutritional environment of the where they go to school as well as their homes. The intervention program focuses on ways to increase physical activity, decrease TV viewing time, and increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed. She has presented at several conferences based on this topic and is in the process of writing several manuscripts based on this work.

Dr. Sarah E. Messiah

University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA

Dr. Jennifer Barth

University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA

Gabriela Lopez-Mitnik

University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA

Dr. Lee Sanders

University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA

Melissa Noya

Carlos Albizu University, Miami, FL, USA


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