Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Health state preferences associated with weight status in children and adolescents

Mandy B Belfort1*, John AF Zupancic12, Katherine M Riera1, Jane HG Turner1 and Lisa A Prosser3

Author Affiliations

1 Div of Newborn Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA

2 Dept of Neonatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, Boston MA, USA

3 Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit, Div of General Pediatrics, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI, USA

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BMC Pediatrics 2011, 11:12  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-12

Published: 7 February 2011



Childhood obesity is a substantial public health problem. The extent to which health state preferences (utilities) are related to a child's weight status has not been reported. The aims of this study were (1) to use a generic health state classification system to measure health related quality of life and calculate health utilities in a convenience sample of children and adolescents and (2) to determine the extent to which these measures are associated with weight status and body mass index (BMI).


We enrolled 76 children 5-18 years of age from a primary care clinic and an obesity clinic in Boston MA. We administered the Health Utilities Index (HUI) and used the HUI Mark 3 single- and multi-attribute utility functions to calculate health utilities. We determined BMI percentile and weight status based on CDC references. We examined single-attribute and overall utilities in relation to weight status and BMI.


Mean (range) age was 10.8 (5-18) years. Mean (SD) BMI percentile was 76 (26); 55% of children were overweight or obese. The mean (SD) overall utility was 0.79 (0.17) in the entire sample. For healthy-weight children, the mean overall utility was higher than for overweight or obese children (0.81 vs. 0.78), but the difference was not statistically significant (difference 0.04, 95% CI -0.04, 0.11).


Our results provide a quantitative estimate of the health utility associated with overweight and obesity in children, and will be helpful to researchers performing cost effectiveness analyses of interventions to prevent and/or treat childhood obesity.