Rhode Island Among States With Highest Childhood Obesity Rates

Rhode Island is among U.S. states with the highest rates of childhood obesity, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

According to this year’s State of Childhood Obesity report, about 1 in 7 children nationwide are considered obese — or about 15.5 percent.

At 11th in the nation, our state falls higher than the U.S. average. This year’s report says roughly 17.5 percent of YOUR STATE children ages 10 to 17 are considered obese.

“Childhood obesity remains an epidemic in this country,” Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a release. “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.”

The focus of this year’s report, according to a release by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is prioritizing childhood health amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the study, researchers say the pandemic and ongoing economic recession have worsened many of the broader factors that contribute to obesity, including poverty and health disparities.

Emerging research links obesity with increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including among children. Evidence from other vaccines also has led some experts to predict that a COVID-19 vaccine may be less effective in those with underlying medical conditions such as obesity.

The pandemic also exacerbates conditions that put children at risk for obesity.

School closures have left millions of children without a regular source of healthy meals or physical activity. In addition, millions of caregivers have lost income or jobs, making it more difficult for families to access or afford healthy foods.

To determine the most recent childhood obesity rates, the foundation used data from the 2018-19 National Survey of Children’s Health, along with information collected through a separate analysis conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

The report also highlights the obesity rates in younger children, high school students and adults. Here’s a look at how Rhode Island rates:

  • Children ages 2 to 4 (participating in WIC — the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program): 15.4 percent, or 11 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Children aged 10 to 17: 17.5 percent, or 11 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • High school students: 14.3 percent, or 28 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Adults: 30 percent, or 35 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Adults with diabetes: 10.4 percent, or 30 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Adults with hypertension: 33 percent, or 30 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Here are a couple findings of note from this year’s report:

Childhood obesity is more prevalent in children of color: About 11.7 percent of white children are considered obese. Rates are significantly higher for Hispanic (20.7 percent), Black (22.9 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native (28.5 percent), and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (39.8 percent) children.

Income also affects the prevalence of obesity: About 21.5 percent of youths

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