Weight Trajectory in Refugee Children after Resettling in the United States: A Pilot Study

Akhila Shapiro, George A. Datto, Jobayer Hossain,

Background: The objective of this study is to describe the weight trajectory of refugee children after resettlement in the US. Methods: A pilot study was conducted, utilizing longitudinal data obtained from the electronic health record of 129 children between 2 and 18 years of age (54% female, mean age 10 years) from the 3 primary countries of origin presenting to a refugee clinic (Bhutan, N = 71;Burma, N = 36, and Iraq, N = 22).. Mixed effects model analyses were utilized to characterize weight trajectory with calculation of a per year change in BMI-z score, adjusting for baseline BMI-z score, age, and time. Results: There was a significant increase in BMI-z (mean 0.15 units/year, p=0.04) among refugee children during their initial period after resettlement. Female children from Bhutan demonstrated the most rapid increase in weight, with a mean BMI-z gain of 1.00 units/year. Conclusion: Female children from Bhutan demonstrated rapid weight gain after resettlement in the US. Further studies are needed to describe weight trajectory trends and evaluate possible reasons for rapid weight gain in this population.

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