Obesity
Diagnosis

Your child's primary care pediatrician evaluates your child's weight during regular check-ups and office visits. Weight issues rarely sprout rapidly but rather develop over time. If you think your child has a weight problem, make an appointment with his or her pediatrician or primary care doctor.

There are two main tools doctors use to assess a child's weight:

  • Growth Charts — These charts are used throughout a child's development to assess growth in both height and weight, as compared to other children the same age, and to watch how a child's body changes over time. Almost every doctor uses the same growth charts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is based on the measurements of thousands of children.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) for Age Charts — This index uses height, weight, gender and age to assess a child's weight. A child's BMI is calculated with this formula:

    BMI = weight in kilograms / (height in meters)²

    The number is plotted on a growth chart. Greater than the 95th percentile is considered overweight or obese. A child who falls between the 85 percentile and 95 percentile is considered at risk for becoming overweight.

    Note that this is higher than the cutoffs for adults. An adult with a BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, while an adult with a BMI over 30 is considered obese.

If you have questions about your child's weight, ask to see his or her growth chart. It can be helpful to look at your child's measurements over time. Children may also like to see their chart.

If your child is overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, your doctor or a nutritionist may do a 24-hour food recall with you and your child. This is a tool for gathering information about meal patterns, snack routines and the consumption of sugary beverages. You and your child may be asked about your child's level of physical activity.

Children determined to be overweight or at risk should be referred by their pediatrician to a registered dietitian and possibly a comprehensive obesity program, such as the UCSF Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Clinic.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Endocrinology

WATCH Clinic
1825 Fourth St., Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-7337
Fax: (415) 476-8214
Appointment information

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