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Science, Health, Tech

Childhood obesity numbers in Delaware remain high

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Delaware has the 12th highest obesity rate for youth between the ages of 10-and-17.

The report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation links the COVID-19 pandemic to rising childhood obesity rates.

In Delaware the obesity rate for those in the 10-to-17 years of age range is at 18.9% which is higher than the national rate at 16.2% or one in six youth.

Nationally, non-Hispanic Black children’s rates were at 23.8%, Hispanic children at 21.4%, and non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native children were over 28%.

Children in the lowest income group had an obesity rate of 23.1% while those in the highest income group had a rate of 8.6%

While the pandemic has been one issue, kids of color and kids in families with low income have higher rates according to Robert Wood Johnson’s Giridhar Mallya.

"That's really reflective of the fact that childhood obesity is a symptom of larger challenges that families face in the community," said Mallya. "Things like having and being able to afford healthy, nutritious food and just having equal opportunity to live in communities and go to school that support their health."

As for the pandemic, Mallya explains how it has led to higher obesity rates.

"Partly because kids are indoors more not as physically active they're eating more, they have access to food in their home instead of being in school, but it's also because of things like poor sleep we know that stress and changes in kids routines can affect their sleep and sleep quality actually is determinant of obesity in kids," she said.

Mallya adds the obesity problem has worsened over time.  It’s more prevalent than 20-to-30 years ago - doubling, if not tripling, in some cases.

The foundation is calling for extending and expanding programs that pull families out of poverty and reduce food insecurity like the expanded Child Tax Credit.  It also advocates federal and state governments move to close the Medicaid coverage gap.

The foundation recommends making universal school meals permanent and providing resources to ensure every child has access to healthy meals and extending eligibility for WIC to kids through the age of 6.

Mallya notes if children have better eating and exercising habits when younger it helps as they get older.