Coronavirus Chronicles — The Other Perfect Storm

The concept of the “perfect storm” is not a new one at Childhood Obesity News, and now there is a different kind of perfect storm, one that provides a splendid environment for childhood obesity to increase. What has COVID-19 brought in its wake?

With people staying in more, there may be too much opportunity to engage in recreational eating, or comfort eating. On the other hand, depending on circumstances, a family might be experiencing heightened food insecurity. Even if healthful food is available, parents or other caregivers might be too stressed to prepare or supervise meals effectively.

Kids get too much sleep; or disrupted sleep. They spend too much time sitting on their posteriors, interacting with screens. There is a lack of opportunity to burn off calories in healthy ways. Routine doctor visits have probably been suspended, and children with actionable complaints are likely to have too much else wrong to focus on body fat at the moment.

This has been a partial list, and no doubt each family can add unique obstacles it has faced — each one of which contributes in some way to the danger of increasing obesity.

Hidden pain

The COVID Collaborative issued a report meant to stimulate the government, along with partners from the non-profit and private sectors of society, to appropriately support children who have lost significant adults to the pandemic. They have gathered information through schools, community-based organizations, faith-based institutions, primary care settings, and public records. The document, titled “Hidden Pain,” became available last month.

The United States has lost 760,000 of its citizens to COVID-19, although even that number is contested by those who believe that certain types of deaths should have also been counted as part of the toll. Among the casualties are “parents, custodial grandparents, or other caregivers on whom children had relied for financial, emotional, and developmental support.”

The point is also made that many of these bereaved children were not living in the lap of luxury, to begin with, but were already struggling with various limitations and deprivations when they lost their responsible adults — these deaths being described as…

[…] devastating losses can impact their development and success for the rest of their lives.

The authors go on to say,

The magnitude of the total loss of life from COVID-19 outpaces deaths in every U.S. war, and the impact of that loss on children in less than two years is profound.

To phrase that another way, out of every 450 children in the USA, one has lost a parent or in-home caregiver to the virus. At least 167,000 vulnerable children have lost caregivers, and 70% of those kids were younger than 13 when it happened. That number includes more than 34,000 kids age four and younger. A total of 72,000 children lost a parent, and 67,000 lost a grandparent who was a caregiver in their home. More than 13,000 lost their only in-home caregiver.

As if all that death were not traumatic enough, a side effect has been children losing their eligibility for “publicly funded programming like Head Start and Early Head Start” that require co-payments and parent volunteer participation.

That topic will continue in the next post. Meanwhile, let’s end this one with a mind-blowing statistic: Half of the entire caregiver loss originated in just five American states: California, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Hidden Pain,”, undated
Image by Zooey/CC BY-SA 2.0

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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.

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