COVID-19 Pandemic Could Lead to Rise in Childhood Obesity

The coronavirus pandemic is predicted to make childhood obesity worse as many children are still learning remotely and have reduced opportunities to exercise outside and an increasing reliance on processed food, reports The Counter.  

The childhood obesity rate was already at an all-time high at 19 percent before the pandemic, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and in July the medical journal Obesity published a letter predicting an increase of 4.25 percentage points after five months of COVID-19 school closures.

Schools in many states are still operating remotely and many don’t anticipate returning until next fall.

“It’s certainly very likely that these two crises, the childhood obesity epidemic and the COVID pandemic, are intersecting in many ways,” Jamie Bussel, a senior program officer for children’s health at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told Axios.

There are myriad reasons for the anticipated rise in rates: schools have been handing out more processed, frozen shelf-stable foods to children who receive school lunches due to delivery logistics and staffing shortages and gym classes and commuting to school are non-existent, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle.

“It’s unlikely that a child who gains excess weight will lose it, without a dramatic intervention,” Erin Hager, a University of Maryland nutritional epidemiologist, and Baltimore County school board member, told The Counter. “We can’t just sit back and see what happens when these kids turn 30 or 40 years old. We may need to act fast to address this.”

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