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(Aut-SDAR) An Ecological Approach to Understanding Obesity Risk among Children with ASD


  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)

Targeted/Underserved Population

  • Special Health Care Needs


The proposed project uses the social-ecological framework to understand obesity risk in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The prevalence of ASD and childhood obesity are increasing, and children with ASD are at an increased risk of obesity compared to typically developing children. As obesity in children with ASD may increase with age, there is a need to explore factors in adolescents with ASD. ASD and obesity are complex diagnoses impacted by personal, family, healthcare, neighborhood, and community factors, and research on synergy between these risk factors is warranted. The goal of the proposed project is to better understand the social-ecological context for ASD and obesity to address disparities in adolescents with ASD as they transition to adult health care. The project will focus on the following aims using data from the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH): (1) determine the co-occurrence of childhood obesity among US children with ASD compared to those without ASD in adolescents aged 10-17 adjusting ASD severity and other co-occurring conditions; (2) examine child characteristics, and family, community/neighborhood, and healthcare determinants associated with childhood obesity among children with ASD compared to those without ASD; (3) implement an ecological approach to identify pathways for intervention and develop a conceptual framework for action.

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