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Obesity Soars Among Low-Income U.S. Children During COVID-19 Pandemic

During the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion of children from low-income families with overweight or obesity increased markedly, according to a new study by Ihuoma Eneli, MD, MS, FAAP, Director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues.

The cohort study of over 4,500 young people (aged 2-17 years) from a large primary care network in the State of Ohio is one of the first to present findings on how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted weight change in young people from lower socioeconomic groups.

“The early months of school closures, bans on social gatherings, disruptions to sleep and lack of exercise, increased screen time and snacking, as well as heightened stress and anxiety created the perfect storm for having issues with weight gain,” says Professor Eneli.

She continues: “We know that excess weight gain during childhood is difficult to reverse, and if left unchecked, can have serious health consequences such as type 2 diabetes, as well as higher odds of having obesity as an adult. Poverty makes both obesity and its negative health effects more likely, and access to obesity care is disproportionately lower in minority populations. These new data underscore why urgent action is needed to close the gap between the most and least deprived to ensure every child has an equal chance to grow up healthy.”

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