Obesity rate for Pennsylvania kids remains among highest in U.S.
Pennsylvania has 185,400 young people between the ages of 10 and 17 who are obese, according to newly released data. That amounts to 17.4 percent — the same as in recent years, but still the ninth highest rate in the United States, according a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The national obesity rate is 15.3 percent, amounting to 4.8 million people aged 10 to 17. Mississippi had the highest youth obesity rate, 25.4 percent, and Utah had the lowest, 8.7 percent.
The report said young people who are obese are at greater risk of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
The report noted that Black and Hispanic children had significantly higher obesity rates than white and Asian children.
It further found that income plays a big role: about 22 percent of young people in households with incomes less than the poverty level had obesity, compared to 9.4 percent of young people in households with income of at least 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
Obesity is based on the child’s height and weight, which are used to calculate body-mass index, or BMI. Children whose BMI is at the 95th percentile or above are considered obese.
According to the foundation, the national childhood obesity rate rose from the 1970s though the early 2000s and has “grown much more slowly” since then.
The foundation makes assorted recommendations to reduce obesity among children, including pulling back on proposed changes to the federal food stamps program that would cause many children to lose the benefit; reverting to previous nutrition standards for school meals; making sure any changes to the federal WIC supplemental nutrition program are science based; and providing more federal grant money to enable states to carry out efforts to address obesity.
The report said cities and states including Boston, San Antonio, Columbus, Ohio and Washington have devised “innovative efforts to improve access to healthy foods and opportunities for kids and families to be active.”