CLEVELAND — More than 15 percent of Ohio children are considered obese.
Ohio has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation for children ages 10 to 17, according to a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Roughly one in seven Ohio kids are considered obese.
“Childhood obesity remains an epidemic in this country,” said Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation .
Ohio’s obesity rate for kids 10 to 17 is 15.7 percent. The national obesity rate for that age group is 15.5 percent. Ohio has the 20th highest youth obesity rate in the nation.
Poverty is one of the leading contributing factors to youth obesity, the Foundation found. With the coronavirus pandemic causing shutdowns and mass layoffs around the nation, Ohio and the U.S.’s youth obesity crisis may have grown worse.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic recession have worsened many of the broader factors we know contribute to obesity, including poverty and health disparities. We must confront these current crises in ways that also support long-term health and equity for all children and families in the United States,” Bussel said.
Obesity rates tend to also reveal racial, ethnic and economic disparities. Black, Hispanic and Native American children have higher obesity rates than white or Asian children, the Foundation said.
“We’ve seen these disparities for decades when it comes to childhood obesity rates,” Bussel said. “This year, we’ve also seen people of color and people with low incomes hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. In both cases these outcomes reflect decades of disinvestment in specific communities and specific groups of people, often driven by the systemic racism and discrimination that are still so prevalent in our society.”
To counteract escalating obesity rates, the Foundation recommended the federal government increase SNAP’s maximum benefit level and expand waivers allowing school districts to feed students and the community.
The data on Ohio’s youth obesity rate is included in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s new report, “State of Childhood Obesity: Prioritizing Children’s Health During the Pandemic.”
The report uses data from the 2018-2019 National Survey of Children’s Health and an analysis conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
This article originally appeared on the Across Ohio Patch