Here’s how many Georgia youth are obese, according to new report

The 2020 State of Childhood Obesity report was released last month and it reveals where all 50 states — including Georgia — rank percentage-wise when it comes to youth and obesity.

This year’s report notes that nationally, 15.5% of youth ages 10 to 17 are obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines obesity “as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.” BMI, or Body mass index, is a measure to determine childhood obesity or overweight.

“Childhood obesity remains an epidemic in this country,” Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who leads the Foundation’s efforts to prevent childhood obesity said in a press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic recession have worsened many of the broader factors we know contribute to obesity, including poverty and health disparities. We must confront these current crises in ways that also support long-term health and equity for all children and families in the United States.”

The findings showed disparities in income and race when it comes to obesity rates.

Youth in households with an income under the federal poverty level had a 21.5 % rate of obesity, which is over double the 8.8 % of youth in households that earn at least 400% of the federal poverty level.

Non-Hispanic Asian children had the lowest obesity rate at 5.9% in 2018-2019. That was followed by non-Hispanic white children and non-Hispanic multiple race children, which had 11.7% and 14.7%, respectively. Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black, non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native, and non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander children had notably higher obesity rates at 20.7%, 22.9%, 28.5% and 39.8% respectively.

While Kentucky had the highest overall youth obesity rate at 23.8% and Utah had the lowest at 9.6%, Georgia youth landed in the middle at 14.9%. Nationally, Georgia ranked at No. 24 among all 50 states and Washington D.C., reported.

Among the recommendations suggested in the report for additional changes to promote health and prevent childhood obesity are increasing the maximum SNAP benefit level by at least 15% per participant for the span of the economic downturn related to COVID-19 and the Department of Agriculture supporting states in using existing waivers to serve free meals to all students through the 2020-2021 school year.

“SNAP, WIC, and school meals all have proven benefits for children and families,” Bussel said. “Given the unprecedented circumstances families are facing, we must make sure that they reach everyone who is eligible. Doing so will help make sure children and families can stay healthy during this pandemic, and likely reduce the risk for obesity in the long term.”

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