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Report: Obesity Affects Nearly One In Seven Iowa Children

Dan Gold
A new report has found 15.3 percent of Iowa's children ages 10 to 17 are obese.

The annual report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found 15.3 percent of Iowa's children ages 10 to 17 are obese.

A new report has found more than 15 percent of Iowa children between the ages of 10 to 17 are obese.

According to the annual report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the state’s rate of 15.3 percent fell slightly from last year's rate of 16.4 percent. It's on par with the national average of 15.5 percent.

Iowa ranks 22nd in the nation for childhood obesity, an improvement from its ranking last year, which was 14th.

But Jamie Bussel, a senior program officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said this decrease in obesity rates for tweens and teens is not statistically significant.

However, she says the report did find a significant drop in rates for young children ages two to four.

"We should celebrate that," Bussel said. "Because it means that if we can actually get kids to a healthy weight by kindergarten, their likelihood of retaining that healthy weight trajectory, you know, through childhood and adolescence and adulthood is much more likely."

The report once again found obesity disproportionately affects children of color and those from low income families. Hispanic and Black children were found to have obesity rates of 20.7 percent and 22.9 percent, compared to the national average of 15.5 percent. Asian children had the lowest rate at 5.9 percent followed by white children at 11.7 percent.

Additionally, the report found 21.5 percent of kids living in households with incomes under the federal poverty level were obese.

Bussel said the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately people of color and low income families, is deepening the racial and economic disparities found in the issue.

"As a matter of fact, even early research is showing that obesity puts people at greater risk for COVID. And for more serious symptoms of COVID, at least amongst adults. And so it's quite possible that these two crises, if you will, may be making each other worse," she said.

The report recommends expanding access and funding to government nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program
for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter