CINCINNATI — New data released Tuesday shows a significant rise in overweight and obesity rates in Greater Cincinnati children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Robert Siegel, Director of Center for Better Health and Nutrition says this increase is severe.
“My thoughts were, Oh boy this is worse than I thought and we really gotta get started on getting people back to a healthier state,” Siegel said.
Records released Tuesday from Cincinnati Children's show the overweight and obesity rates were relatively stable from 2011 to 2020 with a gradual rise from 35% to 36.4%.
The year of the COVID shutdown showed an increase to 39.7%.
Dr. Seigel says there were a host of contributing factors that led to kids eating poorly and getting less physical activity.
“So while we did expect to see a rise in unhealthy weight during the pandemic, given all the problems that families and kids are dealing with, we were very surprised to see that level of rise.”
Dr. Siegel says finances were another factor. Picking up fast food was less expensive and quicker than preparing a meal with fresh fruits and vegetables.
“A lot of families felt the stress of the pandemic. There was obviously a lot of people were furloughed or even lost their jobs,” Siegel said. “Then there was supply issues on top of it, so often families were dealing with a decreased income. Unfortunately, increased prices and just plain unavailability of healthy foods took its toll.”
Daniel Hicks says he makes it a priority to keep his grandson as active as possible.
“Keep him healthy and keep him out going instead of trapped in the house,” Hicks said.
Health expert Payton Atkins says it’s important kids build healthy habits from a young age.
“I think having an active lifestyle is just going to continue throughout your life,” Atkins said.
“Educating them is important too because it's important to not only make them do these things but have them understand why they're doing it too.”
Small changes can go a long way.
“There's so many healthy alternatives nowadays,” Atkins said.
“If a kid's favorite fast food snack is french fries, you can cut up potatoes yourself at home and use some different spices and some olive oil and make things yourself that are more healthy.”