KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rolled out changes to growth charts adding categories for children and adolescents with severe obesity. The charts were based on data from surveys conducted from 1963-1994.

The CDC said the updated charts are better suited to reflect current childhood obesity rates. The new Body Mass Index charts are only replacing the severe obesity growth charts for children.

The goal is to help providers and families come up with a more comprehensive plan to address childhood obesity.

“The original scale put obesity at a BMI stopping at 37 for children,” Registered Dietitian Lauren Kotrys says.

The new chart now covers up to a BMI of 60 for children. Previous growth charts were based on data collected more than four decades ago.

They did not extend high enough to plot BMIs for today’s increasing number of children with severe obesity.

“The BMI in children is a little bit different because it is grouped based on gender, and then that BMI number, where in adults your BMI is 25, 30, 40, in children that BMI is then put on almost like a chart, like a growth chart, and put in percentiles where a certain percentile is healthy, normal, a certain percentile is considered overweight, another percentile is considered obese,” Kotrys says.

She adds that severe obesity is an issue and quite common in our area.

According to the new chart, severe obesity is defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 120% of the 95th percentile on BMI-for-Age growth charts.

“It is prevalent and it is something, especially in the South, we are facing and dealing with and are trying to help,” Kotrys says.

She adds parents should not just focus on the numbers.

“Focusing the conversation not necessarily on their weight but on behaviors is a much more positive thing to do. So, saying how are your children being active, are they getting an hour daily of activity? Are we having foods high in fiber, such as whole grains fruits and vegetables? Are we consuming lean proteins? Essentially meats, low-fat dairy?”

She says the new charts will help providers create effective treatment options to combat obesity in today’s youth.

The CDC mentions that early intervention is critical to children’s health as they continue to grow into adults. 

Existing growth charts for non-obese children and adolescents will not change.