JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida has the 22nd highest rate in the nation for children who are significantly overweight, according to the State of Childhood Obesity Report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Nearly 16% of Florida youth are significantly overweight, the study found.
Dr. Madeline Joseph, the medical director for Health Weight Management at UF Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, said the COVID-19 pandemic has “made this chronic disease even worse.”
Studies show 15.8% of kids in the Sunshine State are considered obese. The national rate is 16.2%. If children are not at a healthy weight for their age and height by kindergarten, they could struggle with obesity as they get older, Joseph said.
“A lot of these children, even at a young age, because of the obesity, they’re at risk of complications,” Joseph said. “Some of these kids will develop hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease and not to mention low self-esteem, the stigma and the bullying that goes with it.”
To help combat child obesity, Joesph encourages children to limit their screen time and play outside instead. Joseph also urges organizing family walks, eating meals together as a family to avoid overeating and most importantly, contacting your pediatrician.
Joseph said children of color and kids from low-income families have the highest obesity rates, especially during the pandemic. She said food insecurity plays a role in that, because the children may not be getting enough nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.