Coronavirus Chronicles — Two Messes Feed on Each Other

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month has ended, and maybe October should be called Childhood Obesity Plus COVID-19 Awareness Month.

A group of seven authors from three different institutions (Centers for Disease Control; Public Health Informatics Institute; and McKing Consulting Corporation) combined their expertise to publish “Longitudinal Trends in Body Mass Index Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic Among Persons Aged 2–19 Years — United States, 2018–2020.” They begin by baldly stating what is already known about the many links between the COVID-19 pandemic and childhood obesity, namely, that “school closures, disrupted routines, increased stress, and less opportunity for physical activity and proper nutrition” have combined forces to cause a very concerning amount of weight gain in children and teens.

In the two years to 19 years age group, before the pandemic, 19% were obese, and now the percentage has grown to 22%, NPR’s Scott Neuman explains. This increase is seen most clearly in younger children. This conclusion was based on the records of 432,302 individuals. The study…

[…] noted that for severely obese kids, expected annual weight gain increased from 8.8 pounds before the pandemic to 14.6 pounds in August 2020. For moderately obese kids, the pre-pandemic expected weight gain of 6.5 pounds went up to 12 pounds.

The study authors recommend increased efforts geared toward the prevention of further deterioration in this area of health. Among the suggested fixes are increased BMI screening, better access to programs, more physical activity opportunities, and better food security, to be brought about by increased food assistance resources. All these factors are especially important among communities that are already severely affected by either or both of the two crises that mutually empower each other.

Another NPR writer, Yuki Noguchi, points out that the CDC has a special benchmark for states — an obesity rate of 35% or higher — and since the pandemic began, four additional states have achieved that percentage, to make a total of 16 very overweight states. To put that into perspective, consider this: only 10 years ago, no state had yet reached that 35% mark.

A leading obesity researcher, Harvard University’s Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, told the reporter,

[S]tress doesn’t just affect exercise and eating patterns. It also prompts the body to store more fat. During the pandemic, other factors, including food insecurity and reduced access to recreation made it more likely that everyone from children to older adults would gain weight.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Longitudinal Trends in Body Mass Index Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic Among…,” CDC.gov, 09/17/21
Source: “Children And Teens Gained Weight At An Alarming Rate During The Pandemic, The CDC Says,” NPR.org. 09/17/21
Source: “Obesity Rates Rise During Pandemic, Fueled By Stress, Job Loss, Sedentary Lifestyle,” NPR.org, 09/29/21
Image by Travis Wise/CC BY 2.0

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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