Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on pediatric weight: A retrospective chart review

Kelly M. Dopke, Krista L. Pattison, Eric W. Schaefer, Benjamin N. Fogel, Deepa L. Sekhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic forced United States school closures in March 2020. Students moved to online learning, fostering a sedentary lifestyle. As the pandemic heightened population disparities, the impact on weight gain may also be unequally distributed. This study aimed to evaluate changes in body mass index (BMI) z-scores and weight percentiles of pediatric patients during the pandemic and associated demographics to identify those at risk for weight gain. Methods included a retrospective chart review of patients 5–18 years-old with a well-visit in the three years 2018, 2019 and 2020; first identified with a well-visit in August-September of 2020. BMI z-scores and weight percentiles were analyzed using a correlated errors regression model appropriate for longitudinal data. This longitudinal approach was used to model outcomes by patient demographics. Interaction terms with time were evaluated for each variable. Of 728 patients, mean age was 9.7 years (2018); 47 % female, 70 % white, and 23 % publicly insured. BMI z-score did not increase significantly from 2018-2019 versus 2019–2020. Weight percentile demonstrated a slight trajectory increase over these same time points. Publicly insured patients demonstrated significantly greater increase in BMI z-score versus privately insured patients (p = 0.009). Mean differences between groups increased from 0.26 in 2018 (95 % CI [0.07, 0.45]) to 0.42 in 2020 (95 % CI [0.23, 0.61]). Results were similar for weight percentile. Publicly insured pediatric patients experienced significant increase in BMI-z score and weight percentile, but over time this trajectory remained constant. The results support targeting at risk subgroups in addressing long-term impacts of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102109
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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