The health crisis has had a significant impact on the risk of overweight and obesity in children

Among the multiple impacts of the health crisis of the last two years, what impact has it had on the youngest? Locked up for long weeks, with sometimes interrupted school attendance, less social interaction and physical activity, the everyday life of toddlers was also severely disrupted. A study published Tuesday, April 26 in the Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin (BEH), published by the French health authority, looks at the impact of the pandemic on the weight of young children. According to this survey, carried out throughout the Val-de-Marne department, the health crisis has had a significant impact on overweight and obesity among 4-year-old children.

For this study, the Department’s Maternal and Child Protection Research Services (PMI) relied on data from preschool health screening (BSEM) offered to all children entering middle school. It is therefore based on a nearly complete data corpus for this age group in the department: 48,119 children for whom data were complete over three consecutive years, with a mean age of 4.54 years.

These assessments, which allow families to be referred to health professionals when follow-up is deemed appropriate, are also a mine of information for research. “The BSEMs allow children to be weighed, measured, tested their vision, their speech… We are also fortunate to be able to access previous databases so we can make comparisons.”reports dr. Marie-Laure Baranne, Head of Studies, Research, Health Certificates at the PMI of Val-de-Marne and first author of the study.

A “professional alarm”

Before the health crisis, just under 9% of the 4-year-old children in the department were overweight and around 3% were obese. In the years 2020-2021, the study shows that the proportion of overweight children (+ 2.6%) and obese children (+ 1.8%) will increase significantly compared to the reference year 2018-2019. Another metric: The “z-score,” an indicator that measures the difference in height in children compared to the average — the body mass index, which is used for adults and isn’t relevant in children — also rose significantly an average of 0.20 in 2018-2019 to 0.35 in 2020-2021.

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For a disease that correlates very strongly with social inequalities, it was not surprising that the PMI teams found that training in a priority or priority plus zone led to an increased risk of overweight and obesity. On the other hand, one observation surprised department teams: “We found that the risk was higher in girls. That’s a fact we can’t explain to kids that age observes Doctor Baranne. Later there may be a hormonal effect, but at the age of 4 this would be surprising. »

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