October 14, 2020 - 11:37 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — A national report on childhood obesity shows Iowa’s kids improving slightly compared to other states and versus last year’s Iowa numbers.

Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says the overall findings for children between the ages of ten and 17 haven’t changed much, which is discouraging.

(As above) “It shows that more than one-in-seven kids, or about 15% in this age group, have obesity,” Bussel says. “That’s a rate that’s actually remained relatively constant over the last few years. Iowa is hovering right around the national average and we’ve not seen any statistically significant changes.”

Iowa’s childhood obesity rate on this report is at 15.3% compared to 16.4% a year ago. This year’s national average is 15.5%, just two-tenths of a point above Iowa’s rate. Bussel says the numbers worsen along racial and economic lines.

(As above) “Rates are much higher amongst kids of color, African American, Latino, Native American children as compared to their white and Asian counterparts,” Bussel says. “We see the same is true for kids whose families have lower incomes. Rates are more than twice as high for those children as compared with kids from more affluent families.”

The report, called “The State of Childhood Obesity: Prioritizing Children’s Health During the Pandemic,” shows Iowa improved on the national rankings, falling from 14th a year ago to 22nd this year, even though the percentage of obese youth in Iowa dropped only slightly.

(As above) “We see incredible signs of progress but there’s certainly a long, long way to go,” Bussel says. “I don’t think anybody who’s been in the field of childhood obesity prevention for a long time feels totally satisfied with where we’re at.”

Much of the data on which this report was based comes from studies done during 2018 and 2019, so they don’t take the 2020 pandemic into account. Bussel says the numbers on the report -next- October may rise, significantly.

(As above) “I think that’s a very real possibility,” she says, “with school closures, with the extraordinary number of people seeking emergency food support, with less opportunities to be out there being physically active.”

While Iowa’s childhood obesity rate is at 15.3%, the worst ranking state is Kentucky with 23.8%, while Utah is tops this year with a rate of 9.6%.

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