Health experts worry about COVID-19 impact on childhood obesity

COVID-19 impact on childhood obesity

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee ranks high among the states with the highest childhood obesity rates according to a report released Wednesday morning. Health experts are concerned about how the pandemic will affect rates nationwide.

For years doctors have warned that childhood obesity can lead to several health issues like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

But how prevalent is Childhood Obesity?

The national rate has stayed relatively constant over the years. One in seven children between the ages of 10 and 17 are obese, according to a report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Wednesday.

“The report that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched this morning is essentially a summary of a handful of the major federal surveys that our nation conducts,” Jamie Bussel, a Program Officer of the foundation, said.

Bussel states that Tennessee’s childhood obesity rate is higher than the national average, and the state is ranked fourth out of all 50 states.

According to the national data the foundation collected, there are higher rates of obesity among Black and Latino children. There are several socioeconomic factors that lead to higher rates, like location and access to healthy food.

“The choices people make are very much based on the choice people have. So, it has so much to do with opportunities kids have to live well and be healthy,” Bussel said.

Researchers have found overlapping trends for communities most impacted by COVID-19 and communities with high rates of childhood obesity.

Experts are growing more concerned that the pandemic will only make things worse.

“We don’t necessarily yet have the science or data to tell us that, but I think that a lot of the experts are hypothesizing that we are likely to see the trends going in the wrong direction,” Bussel explained.

The foundation’s report recommends funding and expanding national programs like SNAP and the Women Infant and Children Program (WIC) to combat food insecurity and increase education about nutrition.

“Achieving all of these ambitious goals is really going to take changes fundamentally in the way we think about the policies and the environment that shape our community,” Bussel said.

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