Healthbeat: Childhood obesity report

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s no secret that childhood obesity is a serious health threat to pre-adolescents and teenagers. But now a report released on Wednesday puts the problem in perspective here in Pennsylvania and across the country.

That report comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And while Pennsylvania ranks below the national average of obese children between the ages of 10 and 17, the findings are nothing to brag about.

The number of children in that age bracket considered obese has been fairly consistent the last few years according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The breakdown? About one in seven children nationally, or 15.5 percent. Pennsylvania is just one percentage point less.

“Not exactly bragging rights. Look, we as a nation has a ways to go,” said Jamie Bussel, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The new report “Childhood Obesity: Prioritizing Children’s Health During the Pandemic” compiles data from an array of surveys during 2018 and 2019. It finds two troubling and constant factors feeding into the unhealthy numbers.

“We continue to see stark and deep disparities across both race and income. So what that means is that kids of color, African-American, Latino, Native American kids are much more likely to have obesity as compared with their white and Asian counterparts,” said Bussel.

The report finds that children in lower income households are twice as likely to be obese compared to their more affluent counterparts. And that there’s no magic bullet solution to the problem.

“Access to high quality, affordable, healthy foods and opportunities for safe, physical activity, those things matter. But as significant are things like does the family have health insurance? Do they have access to high quality, affordable healthcare? Do they have a living wage? Do they have a place to call home? Do they have reliable transportation?” said Bussel.

She says the report lays out a series of policies that go a long way toward addressing childhood obesity. One way?

“We’re really pushing for an increase of 15 percent in SNAP benefits for beneficiaries especially during the economic downturn,” said Bussel.

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