Annual Report on Children's Healthcare: Healthcare Access and Utilization by Obesity Status in the United States


Research Objective: To examine access to care and utilization patterns across a set of healthcare measures by obesity status and socio-demographic characteristics among children.

Study Design/Population Studied: Nationally representative data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (2010-2015) provides data on obesity status, well-child visits, access to a usual source of care provider, preventive dental visits and prescription medication fills in the past year.

Principal Findings: Uninsured adolescents with obesity were less likely to have a usual source of care provider relative to children without obesity (73% v. 65%). Among younger children, children with obesity were less likely to report a well-child visit (difference of 8 percentage points). Younger children with obesity who lived in the Northeast were more than twice as likely as those living in the west to have a well-child visit. Children with obesity were less likely to report preventive dental use relative to their non-obese counterparts. Obesity status was associated with more prescription medication fills for adolescents, but not for younger children.

Conclusions/Implications for Policy: Our findings provide a baseline assessment for examining obesity and utilization trends among children in the future, especially as coverage patterns change with potential changes in childhood insurance coverage access through the State Child Health Insurance Programs and Medicaid programs. Our findings highlight new directions for future research, particularly regarding the lower rates of preventive dental care among children with obesity.