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Health

One in six Iowa children are obese

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A new report has found one in six Iowa children ages 10 to 17 are considered obese.

A new report has found about one in six Iowa children are considered obese.

The third annual "State of Childhood Obesity" report found 16.9 percent of Iowa's children ages 10 to 17 have obesity.

Iowa ranked 18th highest in the nation for childhood obesity, with a rate slightly above the national average of 16.2 percent.

Jamie Bussel, the senior program officer at the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.

"Millions of families are struggling with food insecurity, meaning they don't have consistent access to enough food to lead a healthy life," she said.

"Our nation safety net is fragile, outdated, and out of reach for millions of eligible kids and their caregivers."

Bussel said, like the pandemic, childhood obesity disproportionately affects low-income families and children of color.

"There really is no magic bullet around this," she said. "I think it's really important to recognize the influence of community conditions, structural racism, that play into, you know, whether or not a child has overweight or obesity.”

Childhood obesity puts kids at greater risk for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer, Bussel said.

She said research shows it's important to get kids to start making healthy lifestyle choices early.

“The science is really strong in terms of if we can get kids to a healthy weight by kindergarten, their weight trajectory is much more likely to be retained in that healthy weight status," she said.

The report recommends policy changes such as making universal school meals permanent, expanding federal programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — or WIC — and other programs, such as the Expanded Child Tax Credit that aim to pull families out of poverty.