The national childhood obesity rate has been rising for decades: One in five children and adolescents (ages 2-19) in the country are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC defines obesity as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.
Obesity’s related conditions include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, even among children. Adding greatly to the concerns in this time of the coronavirus is that obesity is identified as an underlying condition that increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Childhood obesity rates in New Jersey place us 28th among the states and Washington, D.C. for the condition. In the “State of Childhood Obesity” report published last year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 14% of New Jerseyans ages 10 to 17 were categorized as having obesity. “The overlap between groups that are being hit hardest for COVID-19 and the disparities for obesity show real parallels. Because while obesity hits every racial and ethnic group and every income group, it doesn’t hit each group equally. And that’s what we’re seeing with COVID-19,” Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the foundation, said in the introduction to the report.
Kentucky is the state with the highest overall youth obesity rate, at 23.8%, and Utah has the lowest, 9.6%.