Purpose To determine the prevalence of youth who have a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 85th percentile and related characteristics (elevated blood pressures, dietary and physical habits) among rural participants.
Methods Cross-sectional assessment of adolescents (ages 10 to 14 years) participating in the 2003 National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) in a rural southeastern US city was done. Heights, weights, and blood pressures were collected during pre-participation examinations. BMIs and percentiles were calculated based on gender standards. During the first week of the 2003 NYSP, a questionnaire regarding dietary habits and physical activities was administrated. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were performed using SPSS software.
Results 236 youth (mean age 11.9 years) had pre-participation examinations; 8 were excluded for invalid variables, resulting in 228 analyzable participants. The mean BMI percentile was at the 70th (range 1-99th). 42% (N = 99) of the youth had a BMI ≥ 85th percentile for their age and gender. Having an elevated systolic or diastolic blood pressure (greater than 90th percentile for height and gender) was significantly associated with having a BMI ≥ 85th percentile (p = .015 and p = .022 respectively). Of those who received medical assessments, 124 youth had completed questionnaires. 85% of respondents reported both eating less than 4 fruits and vegetables per day; 78% had 2 or more sodas per day, and 50% drank milk one time or less per day. Fast food was eaten more than twice per week by 81% of participants and 59% visited the convenience store more than twice per week for snacks. 61% stated that they ate breakfast five times or less per week. From the questions regarding physical activity, 78% and 57% of youth respectively watched TV or played computer/video games more than 3 hours per day. 68% stated that there was not a park near their house, with 71% stating that they did not feel safe getting physical activity at a park. Nearly half (48%) did not participate in a sport team after school. No significant associations between having a BMI ≥ 85th percentile and these dietary or physical activity habits were found.
Conclusions The study demonstrated the need for interventions to promote healthy eating and physical activities in rural NYSP participants. Programs targeting obesity prevention and intervention as well as blood pressure control are feasible in this setting. The NYSP, often implemented through venues at historically black universities/colleges, is attended by over 50,000 disadvantaged youth annually.
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