University of Queensland develops new predictors of risk for childhood obesity

by Freya Lucas

April 07, 2021

For the first time in Australia, researchers are able to accurately predict those babies most at risk of childhood obesity by the age of eight to nine years. 

 

Researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ) have developed and validated the i-PATHWAY model, which uses simple risk factors mostly gathered during routine doctor visits at 12 months of age to predict future childhood obesity.

 

i-PATHWAY can calculate the risk of childhood obesity with 74.6 per cent accuracy, dietician and research fellow Dr Oliver Canfell said. 

 

“Risk factors used are the baby’s weight change in the first year, mother’s pre-pregnancy height and weight, father’s height and weight, baby’s sleep pattern in the first year, premature birth, if the mother smoked during pregnancy and if the baby is female,” Dr Canfell said.

 

The research is of significance, Dr Canfell explained, because obesity prevention is most effective in the first 1000 days of life and that i-PATHWAY could be used in this period to prioritise prevention for babies at high risk.

 

“Almost one in four Australian children live with an unhealthy weight,” he said.

 

“Identifying babies at high risk means that clinicians and families can be proactive together to implement preventive actions that are family-based.”

 

By predicting childhood obesity at the age of eight or nine years, health professionals can intervene sooner, and prevent a lifetime of complications. 

 

The i-PATHWAY study used data from almost 2000 children followed from birth to the age of nine in the ‘Raine Study’ in Western Australia.

 

“The data has shown predicting childhood obesity in Australia is possible, but before clinicians – such as GPs and Child Health Nurses – can use i-PATHWAY in practice, we need to test the model in a different group of children to confirm its predictions are still valid,” Dr Canfell said.

 

“Once i-PATHWAY is validated in a different group, we can then test i-PATHWAY in practice and see how effective it is in helping to prevent childhood obesity,” he added.

 

To access the research, please see here

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