Childhood Obesity in Mississippi: Prevalence and Trends

Results from the Child and Youth Prevalence of Obesity Survey (CAYPOS), conducted biennially from 2005 through 2013, were published in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association. Findings confirm continued stabilization of obesity rates among public school students in Mississippi and point to significant racial disparities.  Researchers with the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi State Department of Health analyzed data from the multi-year study, which used school nurses to collect height and weight measurements on a representative sample of public school students statewide in grades K through 12. The journal article provides the detailed data and discusses major trends identified by the researchers:


Combined Overweight & Obesity Rates

  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity for all students has leveled off, but rates remain much higher than national averages.  A slight, but not statistically significant (p = 0.0862), decline in rates has occurred since 2005 (41.8% combined rate in 2013 compared to 43.9% in 2005).
  • Declines in the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity among elementary school students and white students remained statistically significant from 2005 to 2013.
  • The combined prevalence of overweight and obesity among middle school students declined from 2005 to 2007, but reversed direction and increased from 2007 to 2013.

Obesity Rates

  • A significant drop in obesity prevalence (p = 0.0163) was documented in elementary students – the first year of the survey that this has occurred.
  • In 2013, the prevalence of obesity was significantly higher among black students (p < 0.001) and middle school students (p = 0.048).
  • Significant racial disparities in obesity rates found in 2009 and 2011 were also documented in 2013, when 19.7% of white students were classified as obese, compared to 26.7% of black students.
  • In 2013, the prevalence of obesity for black females (29.1%) was significantly higher than for white females (18.0%).  The difference between these groups was also statistically significant in 2007, 2009, and 2011.

The Child and Youth Prevalence of Obesity Survey (CAYPOS) is a primary source of data on childhood obesity prevalence and trends in Mississippi and has been used as a key component in the evaluation of the impact of the 2007 Mississippi Healthy Students Act.  The reports from the five-year project, Assessing the Impact of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act, detail findings from multiple studies conducted by researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University of Mississippi that included on-site observational studies of school nutrition environments, fitness evaluations, and surveys of school officials, parents, and policymakers, along with CAYPOS data, to assess the impact of changes in the school and home environments on childhood obesity.

Copies of the journal article, as well as a copy of the final report, Assessing the Impact of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act, and a set of charts illustrating trends in childhood obesity in Mississippi from 2005 – 2013, can be downloaded by clicking the links at the left. Printed copies of the article and report are available by contacting the Center for Mississippi Health Policy at 601-709-2133 or by e-mail at