Deep Bench: The state of childhood obesity

(WZAW) -- Scientists predict that more than half of today's children will have obesity by age 35 if current trends continue.

On Thursday, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a new report entitled State of Childhood Obesity: Helping All Children Grow up Healthy. It tracks the latest national and state-level data on childhood obesity rates and policy recommendations to address the epidemic and help all children grow up at a healthy weight.

The data come from the 2017 and 2018 National Survey on Children's Health, along with analysis conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Senior Program Officer, Jamie Bussel, joined the Deep Bench on Thursday. She said 4.8 million young people between the ages of 10 and 17 in the United States have obesity.

"The rates have remained relatively steady across the board, across all states in the nation over the last couple of years. That being said, they still are entirely too high."

Bussel said Wisconsin's childhood obesity rate is 14.1%. The national rate is 15.3%.

"So Wisconsin is lower than the national average and ranked 28th highest, so you're right about in the middle."

She added that in looking at the rates, there continues to be consistent racial and ethnic disparities.

"African American and Latin American youth are most over-burdened by the epidemic," Bussel explained. "In addition, kids living in lower income households are at greater risk than those living in higher income households."

She said over the past several decades, the rates have been steadily increasing.

"It's going to take us time to see steady declines, but we have a lot of around that, given so many bright spots throughout the nation and encouraging stories in the field of leaders and communities really taking action to address the epidemic," Bussel said. Regardless of what level of government, all leaders at multiple levels of government, parents, advocates, health care providers, teachers... everyone has a role to play."

She said if kids can all get to a healthy weight by kindergarten, the likelihood that they retain that healthy weight trajectory through adolescence and adulthood is much greater.

For more information and resources like policy change strategies, visit www.stateofobesity.org