Comparison of Early Life Obesity-Related Risk and Protective Factors in Non-Hispanic Black Subgroups

Sarah E. Messiah, Folefac Atem, Cynthia Lebron, Ashley Ofori, M. Sunil Mathew, Catherina Chang, Ruby A. Natale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Previous obesity prevention studies in preschool-age children have included non-Hispanic Black (NHB) children, but few have investigated between-subgroup differences even though there may be cultural risk and protective practice differences, challenging the generalizability of findings. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in early childhood obesity-related factors in NHB subgroups (Haitian, other Caribbean Islander and African-American [AA]) children. Methods: Baseline data from two randomized controlled trials in 52 childcare centers of which 35 had data to test a preschool-based obesity prevention intervention was analyzed. The sub-sample included 370 caregiver-child dyads; 209 self-identified as AA, 120 as Haitian and 41 as Caribbean Islander/West Indian or mixed race. Multilevel regression models generated outcome estimates for group differences in body mass index (BMI) percentile, birthweight, breastfeeding initiation and duration, bottle feeding duration and age when solid foods were introduced. Results: Mean BMI percentile was similar for AA, Haitian and Caribbean Islander/West Indian/Multiracial (60.1th percentile, 60.8th percentile, 62.8th percentile, respectively) as was birthweight (6.3, 6.8, and 6.6 lb, respectively). Children of US-born caregivers had significantly lower BMI percentiles (9.13 percentile points) versus foreign-born caregivers. Haitian women were significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding (64.9%) versus AA (47.6%) and Caribbean Islander/West Indian/Multiracial (62.2%) (p <.01). No significant group differences were found in breastfeeding or bottle feeding duration or age solid foods were introduced. Conclusions: Findings here suggest that NHB race classification can identify important subgroup behavioral similarities which in turn may inform culturally sensitive strategies to promote early childhood healthy weight. Foreign-born caregivers may benefit from healthy weight promotion information, and as early as possible in their child’s development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1130-1137
Number of pages8
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • African american
  • Early childhood
  • Ethnicity
  • Haitian
  • Non-Hispanic Black
  • Obesity
  • Prenatal
  • Preschool-age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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