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Pandemic fueled increase in child obesity
Photo courtesy: Pixabay.com
By Joseph Rios
Since the 1980’s, childhood obesity has increased significantly in the United States. In 1980, only 5 percent of children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 19 were considered to be obese. However, by 2018, more than 19 pecent of children were considered obese while another 16 percent were considered overweight, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When the pandemic began, health officials were worried school closures would lead to an increase in disparities in obesity risk. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Care Network found that obesity increased by nearly 2 percent between January 2019 and December 2020 with Black and Latino children showing higher obesity rates than other groups. Children from families with lower incomes also had higher obesity rates than others.

Despite the 2 percent increase in childhood obesity in Philadelphia, it is unknown if numbers will be similar in other states.

Children’s Hospital Colorado found that obesity affects nearly 14 percent of children in the state of Colorado. Children who are severely obese are at greater risk of metabolic and cardiovascular abnormalities and are very likely to be obese as adults, Children’s Hospital Colorado says.

Childhood obesity is particularly detrimental for children of color in the country. The CDC found that obesity was prevalent among 25.6 percent of Hispanic children. From 2013 to 2016, Hispanic children were 1.8 times more likely to be obese, compared to non-Hispanic white children, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

The state has taken steps to restrict sugary drinks in recent years with the hopes of improving the health of children in the community. For example, Aurora City Council voted in favor of requiring restaurants in the city to make non-sugary drinks the default option in children’s meals. In 2016, Boulder adopted the Sugary Sweetened Beverage Product Distribution Tax which places a two cents per ounce excise tax on the distribution of beverages with added sugar and other sweeteners. Hispanics in Colorado are more likely to consume sugary drinks daily, compared to white and Asian or Pacific Islander Coloradans.

The CDC says parents, guardians and teachers can help children maintain a healthy weight by helping them stick to healthy eating habits and by limiting food with high calories. Children should also be physically active, have reduced screen time and get a healthy amount of sleep each night to help reduce obesity, according to the CDC.

You can help your child develop healthy eating habits by providing vegetables, fruits and whole grain products, low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, choosing lean meats for protein, encouraging your family to drink a lot of water and by limiting consumption of sugar and sugary drinks.

Engaging in physical activity for at least an hour a day also helps to children achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

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