Coronavirus Chronicles — Again, Water

Childhood Obesity News has been discussing how obesity puts people at greater risk of catching COVID-19 and also of dying from it. We looked at India, where water that the people need, if they are to have any hope of defeating the virus, is wrongfully appropriated by the very same corporations that promote obesity.

Here, incidentally, from the news service Reuters, is the latest:

Coronavirus cases in India reached 100,000 on Tuesday, matching the number of intensive care unit beds in the country, while the rate of growth of new infections showed little sign of slowing.

Then we skipped across the ocean to see the same wretched history of water-grabbing in Brazil. Today, we consider North America. The photo on this page is what might be called a misdirect, because it originates not in the Navajo landscape of the USA, but in East Africa. The point is, these East Africans are probably in a better situation, in terms of having access to water, than the Navajo people in America. In both populations, food insecurity is definitely rampant. In America, inadequate nutrition often coexists with obesity.

We have seen that obesity and its co-morbidities, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, are found more often in Native Americans than in the general population. Here are a couple of discouraging sentences:

American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents are 30 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adolescents to be obese. American Indian or Alaska Native adults are 50 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites.

By mid-April, the Navajo Nation was one of the top three coronavirus hotspots in the country, and in third place, after New York and New Jersey, in terms of the percentage of population affected.

Inescapable paradox

An extended family might live miles from anyone else, but among themselves, isolation is problematic. It’s not as if everybody can have their own room with en suite bath. These are some of the materially poorest people anywhere. When resources are scarce, cooking cannot be a DIY project. The young and the old have to be cared for. Orders for strict lockdown came swiftly, but even if the culture were more amenable to the concept of quarantine, the circumstances are not.

On the gigantic, 27,000-square-mile reservation, only 30% of the homes have running water. Families might drive as far as 18 miles, on bad roads, in dicey vehicles, to replenish their supplies. Getting water can involve many hours and enormous distances, and necessarily, human contact.

Here are hard facts from Grace Baek of

Over 2 million Americans across all 50 states don’t have any running water or a flush toilet at home, but Native Americans have trouble accessing water more than any other group.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority […] operates 11 external watering stations for residents to haul water, charging $5 for up to 1,000 gallons. But for those who have to purchase water elsewhere or rely on bottled water, it can cost $1.50 a gallon. A study […] found Navajo households without running water paid 71 times the amount that water users in typical urban areas paid.

A lot of residents do not have reliable electricity or telephones. Although 80 people have been trained as contact tracers, the vast distances and wobbly telecommunication infrastructure present huge challenges. Medical personnel are in short supply. There are very few hospitals, and severely ill patients are airlifted, at great expense, to cities in New Mexico and Arizona.

But what about the special COVID relief funding? The Navajo and other tribes did not get their shares, and are suing the federal government. It’s a mess.

If everyone is so remote and far apart, how did COVID-19 become so devastating? Last week, Felicia Fonseca and Tim Sullivan related the chain of events for AP. Before the virus became common knowledge, one man went to a basketball game in Tucson. He came home and went to church, and the contagion was off and running.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “India coronavirus infections surge past 100,000, deaths top 3,000,”, 05/18/20
Source: “Obesity and American Indians/Alaska Natives,”, undated
Source: “Navajo Nation residents face coronavirus without running water,”, 05/08/20
Source: “‘The grief is so unbearable’ — Virus takes toll on Navajo,”, 05/11/20
Image by Oxfam East Africa/(CC BY 2.0)

3 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

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:


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