HealthDay News — Nationwide, 4.8 million young people ages 10 to 17 years have obesity, according to the State of Childhood Obesity: Helping All Children Grow Up Healthy report published Oct. 10 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Data from the 2017 and 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health show that the national obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17 years dropped nonsignificantly from 16.1% in 2016 to 15.3% in 2017 to 2018. Youth obesity rates were highest in Mississippi (25.4%) and lowest in Utah (8.7%). Racial and ethnic disparities were noted, with black and Hispanic youth having obesity rates of 22.2 and 19.0%, respectively, vs 11.8% in white youth and 7.3% in Asian youth. There were also disparities noted in income level, with a youth obesity level of 21.9% among households making less than the federal poverty level vs 9.4% in households making at least 400% of the federal poverty level.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers several policy recommendations to help ensure more US children have consistent access to healthy foods to help them grow up at a healthy weight. These recommendations include calling upon the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to rescind proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) that would cause millions of participants, including young children, to lose their benefits. Furthermore, the foundation calls on the USDA to maintain nutrition standards for school meals that were in effect prior to December 2018. Food packaging revisions should be scientifically based. Finally, state policymakers should allow cities and counties the flexibility to regulate, tax, or otherwise enact strong legislation related to children’s health and healthy communities.

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“We have the power to change these outcomes and make our nation a more equitable society,” Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement. “The more we understand the barriers to good health, the more we can do to address them.”

State of Childhood Obesity: Helping All Children Grow Up Healthy