Recently, Hedley et al. (2004) published a study of the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children, adolescents, and adults in the United States between 1999 and 2002. Over the entire period (1999-2002), the percentage of children and adolescents (ages 6 to 19) at risk for overweight was 31 percent. Table 5-1 shows the breakdown of risk for overweight in children and adolescents by gender and ethnicity for those above the 85th percentile (at risk for overweight) and 95th percentile (overweight) based on the CDC growth charts. For boys ages 6 to 19, 31.8 percent (± 1.4 percent) were at risk for overweight and 16.8 percent (± 0.8 percent) were overweight; the results for girls show that 30.3 percent (± 1.3 percent) were at risk for overweight and 15.1 percent (± 1.1 percent) were overweight. The highest prevalence of overweight was among Mexican American boys ages 6 to 11 (26.5 percent: ± 2.2 percent) and non-Hispanic black girls ages 12 to 19 (23.6 percent ± 1.8 percent). The prevalence of risk for overweight for these two groups was 43.9 percent and 41.9 percent, respectively, compared with 27 percent for white youth of both genders. A graphic representation of the trends in childhood and adolescent obesity by gender and ethnicity is shown in Figure 5-1. It can be seen that the prevalence of obesity is increasing faster for Mexican American and black children than for their white counterparts. Among boys, the greatest rate of increase is among Mexican American youth ages 12 to 19; among girls, the greatest rate of increase is among black youth ages 12 to 19. These data suggest that Mexican American and black youth are more likely than white youth to qualify for military service on the basis of current BMI standards.

Data from NHANES 1999-2000 and NHANES 2001-2002 showing the distribution of BMI for the general population of youth ages 16 to 24 indicate that 40 percent have BMIs of over 25 and more that 15 percent have BMIs of 30 and over. What are the implications of these findings for military recruiting?

Current Military Standards

Standards for BMI and body fat are determined by each Service. In order to develop a picture of the BMI distribution for first-term recruits, the committee plotted the BMI means and standard deviations found in military personnel basic training studies against the BMI distribution in the youth population, ages 16 to 24. Data that characterize the youth population were obtained from NHANES 1999-2000 and NHANES 2001-2002 and included 1,531 men and 1,611 women. The downloaded files consist of demographic and BMI variables. Percentile ranks for each group were calculated using SUDAAN. Separate racial analyses were conducted to assess the association between BMI and race. The participants were



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