Data: More Than 50,000 Iowa Kids Are Obese

Oct 11, 2019

More than 50,000 -- or 16 percent -- of Iowa's children ages 10 to 17 are considered obese, according to data released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This means Iowa ranks 14th in the nation for obesity. Its rate has held steady from last year's number and is slightly above the national average of 15.3 percent. 

Jamie Bussel, the senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said childhood obesity is one of the "most complex public health challenges that we've faced" because rates widely vary by communuity.

It disporpotionally affects African-American and Latino children, as well kids from low income familes, Bussel said.

"There have been many discriminatory policies and systems that have been in place for decades in this country that have really impacted what we're seeing today around some of these pretty significant disparities in childhood obesity," she said.

Bussel said the report recommends the report recommends changes to federal nutrition programs like the federal school lunch programs and opposes a recent proposal by the Trump administration to change eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which could result in as many as 3 million people losing their benefits.

The ability to make changes at the local level is also important, she said.

"We also feel like state policymakers should be allowing cities and then county leaders with the flexibility to regulate and tax or enact strong legislation related to children's health and community health," Bussel said.

A report released last month found Iowa overall has one of the highest rates of obesity in the country. According to the non-profit Trust for America's Health, more than 35 percent of Iowans are considered obese.