Frequently Asked Questions


What are the CDC growth charts?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a set of growth charts used to evaluate the growth of children. The gender-specific charts use the Body Mass Index or BMI to assess a child's risk for overweight and obesity. A child's BMI is considered relative to that of other children of the same age and gender by using BMI percentiles.

What is a BMI percentile?

The BMI percentile for a child tells how that child's BMI compares to the reference population of thousands of children on which the BMI chart is based. For example, if a boy is 8 years old and his BMI falls at the 60th percentile, that means that 40% of 8-year old boys have a higher BMI and 60% have a lower BMI than that child.

What are some of the warning signs of a weight problem?

The BMI percentiles of children vary a bit from year to year. A small amount of fluctuation is not a cause for concern. However, any large change up or down or a jump in the BMI percentile is a warning sign.
Examples:

  • A child's BMI that has been steadily tracking at the 65th percentile for several years suddenly jumps up to the 75th or 80th percentile.
  • A child's BMI that has been steadily tracking at the 65th percentile for several years suddenly drops down to the 45th or 50th percentile.

What is a healthy BMI range?

There is no healthy range for children the way there is for adults. A good sign is consistent tracking on roughly the same percentile over time.

Can a child be classified as obese?

At this time, there is no government definition of "obesity" in children. A child who meets the definition of overweight may actually be "obese" in the sense of having an excessive amount of body fat to the point that it is a threat to health. But, it is inappropriate to label the child as "obese" because:

  • Body fat was not measured
  • It stigmatizes a child



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