Coronavirus and the Cave New World

As the Earth’s people endure varying degrees of enforced isolation, we have a lot to think about. Which is worse, to be in an area of intense activity, like a medical emergency room, or in an eerily silent ghost town that used to be a thriving tourist attraction? Who is less fortunate, the person stuck in an overcrowded apartment with five annoying relatives, or the one who hasn’t seen another human for days or weeks? In the suspension of normality under special conditions, everything is up for reassessment and reexamination.

Two things about childhood obesity must be repeated constantly. First, the earlier in an individual’s life it begins, the more difficult it is to arrest. Second, the longer it continues, the less likely it is that the person will be able to escape adult obesity. These two principles underlie every effort that is made by professionals in many fields connected with helping these children.

Whether their perspective is grounded in the hard sciences or the soft sciences, everyone involved knows those basic facts. Even if their theories, methods, beliefs, and concerns branch out and differ from that point, they all understand that the top priority is to keep childhood obesity from ever setting in or, failing that, to limit it to the shortest possible time.

Whittled-down choices

But what happens when a planet-wide medical crisis keeps parents from observing many of the preventative measures? When it is impossible to follow the recommended daily habits that stave off childhood obesity, then what? Those habits are hard enough to practice faithfully in normal times.

We will be looking at an article that has been accepted for publication by the journal Obesity, and has undergone full peer review, but as always, there may be some final tweaking and polishing before the Version of Record appears. The official citation is given as doi: 10.1002/OBY.22813, and the title is “COVID‐19 Related School Closings and Risk of Weight Gain Among Children.”

The five authors — Andrew G. Rundle, Yoosun Park, Julie B. Herbstman, Eliza W. Kinsey, and Y. Claire Wang — are from four different institutions. In these pages, their interest is in the effect that the current health crisis is having on children with obesity issues whose lives were already difficult and complicated enough. Because of the necessity to stay home, even if the illness itself does not touch individual children or their families, the coronavirus pandemic will have long-term effects their health. The authors say,

COVID-19, via these school closures, may exacerbate the epidemic of childhood obesity and increase disparities in obesity risk. In many areas of the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools and some of these school systems are not expected to re-open this school year.

The implications are staggering. Parents, stuck at home, out of work or worried about imminent joblessness, may not be their Best Selves. In addition to putting up with the kids being home all morning, all afternoon, all evening, and all night, they are expected to facilitate home schooling, possibly via the Web.

What if there is no computer in the home? What if there is one, and Mom and/or Dad are desperately dependent on it for their own informational needs? Nobody is prepared for this kind of inconvenience, and some people are online giving advice, while others are online seeking it.

A grownup can get very stressed about giving kids the chance to leave sticky residue on the keyboard, or to do something unwise and catch a computer virus (how ironic). That computer may be the tool that allows the kind of meticulous financial management that is more crucial than ever before.

And speaking of homeschooling, how many parents are mentally and emotionally equipped to teach their children math, or anything at all, in an atmosphere already fraught with anxiety, where everyone is trapped and nobody can get away for a cooling-off period?

Families must deal with massively changed plans. Long-anticipated vacations have to be cancelled. Meticulously-planned weddings are thrown into chaos. Children were looking forward to going away to camp, or visiting a theme park. Teens had summer jobs, internships, or gap year travel itineraries lined up — not to mention proms and graduation parties. A whole generation is missing its traditional milestones.

(This topic will continue, mentioning the Obesity article again, along with other news references, all hovering around the general topic of how this crisis affects kids, especially those with weight issues.)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “COVID‐19 Related School Closings and Risk of Weight Gain Among Children,” Wiley.com, 03/30/20
Image by Rob Briscoe/(CC BY 2.0)

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources