2020 leaves Alabama with increased obesity rate

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The U.S. has seen a steady increase in obesity rates for years. For children, the rates have more than tripled since the late 1970′s, going from 5.5 percent to 19.3 percent, that according to the Trust For America Health Organization (TFAH).

Doctors said this 2020 report confirms a lot of the assumptions about the impact the pandemic has had, including the obesity and overweight rates across the country increasing. An adult study by the TFAH shows Alabama sits in the higher, more significant categories compared to last year.

“At 2015 to 2020 the rate has just continued to jump,” Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, TFAH Director of Policy Development, said.

Dr. Kowalik and the TFAH team is working to raise the alarm that the pandemic is leading to an increase to the nation’s obesity rate in adults and children.

“It [COVID-19] did not cause it, but it has exacerbated the problem,” Dr. Jacob Edwards, Adolescent Medicine at Dothan Pediatric Clinic, said.

Dr. Edwards said a steady increase has been noticed, the pandemic leading to changes in routines. He attributes home schooling as one of primary factors.

“They may not be getting their usual breakfast, they may not be getting their usual lunch and so now they are left to get what’s at home and that may not be necessarily a healthy option,” Dr. Edwards said.

Students are also not as active as they were pre-pandemic.

“When we’re sitting at home watching tv we’re just munching, we’re eating snacks, things like that, so we have definitely seen an increase in obesity over the last few years,” Dr. Edwards said.

When it comes to adults, Dr. Kowalik said working from home and the feeling of isolation and hopelessness due to mental health are big factors. But, she said there are opportunities for intervention starting with policy.

“Expanding access to health insurance through the extension of Medicaid,” Dr. Kowalik said.

Dr. Edwards said to work to resolve the issue there is going to have to be some governmental interaction.

“You’re going to have to be able to have neighborhoods where there are not food deserts so people can buy fresh groceries or have healthy options to shop at,” Dr. Edwards said.

Creating opportunities for movement will also help lead to the road to the downtrend.

“Ensuring that everyone has safe and convenient walking and biking trails and that all students have safe routes to school or can bike to school,” Dr. Kowalik said.

Dr. Edwards said education can also play a key part.

“Just have a big community push to get those kids active and teaching more about what healthy eating actually is,” Dr. Edwards said.

Dr. Edwards said when kids are struggling obesity, it puts them at higher risk for being overweight as an adult. This can lead to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and an overall decreased quality of life. So, this issue needs to be put at the forefront.

Copyright 2021 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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