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Screening for Child Obesity

Key points

  • Health care providers should assess BMI at least annually to talk with children and teens about healthy growth.
  • Health care providers can also screen patients for other factors that affect health such as access to health care, healthy food, and safe places to play and be physically active.
Photograph of a child in the doctor's office; the doctor is measuring the child's height.

Body mass index (BMI)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Bright Futures Guidelines recommend that pediatric health care providers assess BMI at least annually for children and teens, ages 2 and older. BMI screening provides an opportunity to talk with patients and their families about a child's growth in addition to other screening results, genetics, and behaviors (diet, physical activity levels, screen time, sleep patterns).

Although BMI percentile is not intended to be a sole diagnostic measure, BMI, BMI percentile, and growth charts can help inform the overall picture of the child being measured.

Child and Teen BMI Calculator
Calculate BMI, BMI percentile, and the corresponding BMI category for children and teens 2 to 19. The calculator also plots BMI-for-age percentile on CDC's growth charts.

CDC's Growth Charts
Percentile curves show the distribution of certain body measurements among U.S. children. CDC's 2000 BMI-for-age growth charts show percentile curves that indicate the relative position of a child's BMI to children of the same sex and age from the growth chart reference population. Results are based on data from 1963–1980 for most children.

CDC's Extended BMI-for-Age Growth Charts
Helps monitor growth and optimize care for children with very high BMIs. The extended percentiles are based on nationally representative data for children and adolescents with obesity from 1988–2016. The extended BMI-for-age growth charts can plot BMI values up to 60 kg/m2, contain 4 additional percentile curves above the 97th percentile, and include color shading to facilitate conversations about growth.

Need a refresher on growth charts?‎

CDC's Growth Chart Training offers self-guided, interactive modules for health care professionals using pediatric growth charts. Training covers using BMI-for-age and extended BMI-for-age growth charts in clinical and public health settings.

Other factors affecting health

Social determinants of health
These are conditions where people live, learn, work, play, and age that affect their health outcomes and quality of life. Health care providers can screen patients about these factors, such as access to health care, healthy food, and safe places to be physically active, and refer them to community resources. Examples of resources are Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or Head Start.

Health-Related Social Needs Screening Tool
Helps health professionals screen for social needs, such as hunger and homelessness. Developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to inform patient care.

Food Insecurity Toolkit- Screen and Intervene
Help pediatricians learn about and screen for food insecurity and connect families to federal nutrition programs and state and local community resources. Developed by the Food Research & Action Center and AAP.


CDC-Recognized Family Healthy Weight Programs
Evidence-based programs ready to be implemented in clinical, community, and public health settings.

CDC's Child & Teen BMI Calculator
Tool to calculate BMI, BMI percentile, and the corresponding BMI category for children and teens ages 2–19, as well as plot the BMI on a growth chart.

CDC's Growth Chart Training
Interactive, self-guided modules to train health care providers and others on how to use and interpret growth charts. Includes 2022 Extended BMI-for-Age growth charts.

Clinical Growth Charts
2000 and 2022 growth charts available online or in downloadable format.