Childhood Obesity

Carey N. Lumeng, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases Pulmonary Division

Jones Family Foundation Research Scholar and Charles Woodson
Interdisciplinary Award in Children’s Health ($30,000)

3D Digital Anthropometry for Assessment of Childhood Obesity and Health


A central goal of pediatric obesity research is to understand the relationship between adiposity, or the state of being fat, during childhood and its complications (e.g. metabolic disease). Accomplishing this goal relies on an accurate set of measures that estimate adipose, or fatty, tissue mass and distribution that are currently limited in number and value in children. Most studies rely on body mass index (BMI) as an estimate of fatness in individuals despite the poor correlation of BMI percentile with total adiposity, the inability of BMI to predict body fat distribution, and variation in the association between BMI and metabolic disease risk. Manual anthropometry, or the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body, (e.g. waist circumference (WC) and skinfold thickness) provides an estimate of body fat and fat distribution. However, these methods have limitations of accuracy and repeatability. This study is based on the premise that digital imaging can overcome these limitations and transform obesity assessment in children.

The goals of this project fall within the purpose of the Charles Woodson Interdisciplinary Award in Children’s Health as it involves a collaboration between a principal investigator (PI) in the Department of Pediatrics and an investigator in a school outside the Department in the School of Engineering. This is a new research initiative for the PI but relates to his overall interest in childhood obesity and disease risk. The project would have several positive impacts: 1) it will establish a new translational science team linking engineers and pediatricians; 2) it will advance the development of a new device for potential broad application for clinical and research obesity evaluation; 3) it would advance the training of Pediatric trainees interested in obesity research.