A recent article on childhood obesity in the US, published in the International Journal of Obesity, details results from an ECHO study of more than 37,000 babies and kids and describes the unique features that make the ECHO Program exceptionally valuable for obesity research.
The authors note that ECHO “holds promise to provide insight into the mechanisms that promote overweight and obesity in US children and provides rigorous data for novel programs to lessen the burden on individuals, families, and society.”
The study found that overweight and obesity were more common in older children than in younger children and varied with race/ethnicity. About 1 in 10 children age 1 to <2 years had a high BMI, and about 1 in 3 adolescents age 12 to <18 years was overweight or obese. Hispanic and black children had the highest rates of both overweight and obesity.
The results were similar to those from the large National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), pointing to the generalizability of ECHO’s population for further obesity research.
Despite the growing obesity epidemic, few programs provide an accurate insight into the many factors that promote overweight and obesity in children in the United States. However, due to the diversity and size of the ECHO Program’s population, it is well positioned to provide a comprehensive view of the impact of various environmental influences on childhood obesity.
“ECHO has assembled a large racially/ethnically diverse US cohort poised to provide much-needed answers to important questions regarding the early life determinants of childhood obesity risk,” the article states.
Because of the program’s size, it will have the statistical power to answer questions about environmental and preventable causes of childhood obesity even for less common exposures. Through the collection of existing and forthcoming data, ECHO also has the ability to examine genetic modifications and unravel the complexity of gene-environment interactions as contributors to obesity.
Find more information on ECHO research at echochildren.org/about.