Childhood Obesity Study Ranks Nebraska 8th Lowest in Nation, National Rates Still Trending Up

Oct. 14, 2020, 5:23 p.m. ·

Child Eating Watermelon (Photo by Jill Wellington)

A new report on childhood obesity in America, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found Nebraska has the eighth lowest youth obesity rate in the nation at 11.5%; the national average is 15%.

Dr. Megan Lott is Deputy Director with Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the foundation. She says across the U.S, youth obesity numbers are trending the wrong way.

“There are a number of national data sets that measure childhood obesity rates," Lott said. "And when you look across all those data sets, they generally, unfortunately, have a gradually increasing upwards slope; meaning [youth] obesity is getting worse.”

Adding salt to the wound is the way obesity interacts with COVID-19.

“A lot of people think that kids are not significantly impacted by COVID, but for those children who have obesity...they’re at much higher risk,” Lott said.

She said the pandemic also increases the risk factors for obesity by creating economic instability for families and making it harder for them to afford healthy foods.

The foundation’s report recommends several federal actions that could help alleviate the problem.

Suggestions include raising the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefit level by 15% and extending free meal waivers for students.