School Demographic Factors That Predict Healthy Body Mass Index

Thursday, April 25, 2013
Exhibit Hall Poster Area 2 (Convention Center)
Brian D. Dauenhauer1, Xiaofen Keating2 and Dolly Lambdin1, (1)The University of Texas–Austin, Austin, TX, (2)The University of TexasAustin, Austin, TX

Background/Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine which socio-demographic factors predict the prevalence of healthy body mass index (BMI) in elementary and middle schools in a large urban school district.

Method: A cross-sectional research design was utilized with schools as the unit of analysis. BMI data and socio-demographic factors from 96 schools were gathered from state education agency databases. The selected school level socio-demographic factors were socio-economic status (SES), limited English proficiency, and student turnover rate. The percentage of students in the healthy zone for BMI in schools was used as the dependent variable.

Analysis/Results: Multiple regression was performed to examine the relationship between the percentage of healthy student BMI and the selected school socio-demographic variables. The results of multiple linear regression analyses indicated an acceptable model fit that accounted for 72% of the variance in healthy BMI. SES and limited English proficiency contributed significantly to the prediction of healthy BMI. The finding of a negative relationship between SES and healthy BMI corroborates previous research findings on the role that SES plays in obesity prevalence. Limited English proficiency was negatively associated with healthy BMI.

Conclusions: SES remains as one of the critical determinants for student BMI. The association between limited English proficiency and healthy BMI was not previously reported in the literature. It is unclear if language itself is contributing negatively to healthy BMI or if this association is a result of other cultural/ethnic factors. Further research on this topic is warranted.