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Demand for health services and drug prescriptions among overweight or obese preschool children


Objectives To evaluate the association between excess weight and the demand of health services in preschool children compared with healthy weight.

Methods The data come from the Longitudinal Study of Childhood Obesity cohort (1884 4-year-old children, residing in the Madrid region, Spain) who provided information through telephone questionnaire, physical examination and electronic medical records. We defined overweight, general and abdominal obesity based on body mass index, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio. Using mixed models of multivariable negative binomial regression we calculated the incidence rate ratio (IRR) regarding primary care (PC) doctor visits, drug prescriptions and hospital admissions by weight status at the end of the 2-year follow-up.

Results Childhood general obesity was associated with a higher demand for PC services related to psychological problems (IRR=1.53; 95% CI 1.02 to 2.28) and childhood abdominal obesity, according to waist-to-height ratio, was related to more frequent problems of the musculoskeletal system (IRR=1.27; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.62). Drugs were prescribed more frequently to children falling under all three definitions of excess weight, compared with healthy weight children. No differences in the number of hospital admissions were observed.

Conclusions The demand of health services related to early childhood obesity was small. Nevertheless, obesity was associated with a slightly greater demand for drug prescriptions and for PC doctor visits related to psychological and musculoskeletal problems.

  • child obesity
  • waist circumference
  • body mass index
  • healthcare
  • drug prescriptions

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