Ohio’s obesity rate for tweens and teenagers is the tenth highest in the country.
About one in six Ohio children ages 10 to 17 is obese, according to a study released Thursday from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The national obesity rate for that age range is 15.3%, slightly lower than Ohio’s 17.1%.
“We’re seeing a higher instance of child obesity, but I think we’re also seeing increased awareness of the need to intervene,” said Melissa King, a pediatrician at Dayton Children’s Hospital who heads up the Healthy Me program.
King said she was worried to see how the Memorial Day tornadoes affected the obesity rate for middle school and high school aged children.
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“If after the tornadoes, if a family is staying with friends or staying at a hotel where they are not able to prepare food, they are probably turning to convenience foods and processed foods,” King said.
It is still too early to know just how the tornadoes have impacted families in this way, King said.
Mississippi has the highest amount of obese children ages 10- to 17-year-old. Just more than a quarter of that age group is obese, according to state-by-state data from the 2017-2018 National Survey of Children’s Health. Utah’s obesity rate for that age range was 8.7 percent, the lowest out of all 50 states and Washington D.C.
One reason Ohio’s obesity rate could be higher, King said, is that the state’s weather varies so much. When the weather is extremely hot or extremely cold there is an increase in sedentary behavior, King said.
In 2017, the Dayton Children Community Health Needs Assessment found that over one-third of children were classified as obese by Body Mass Index (BMI). 14% of children were “overweight.”
The Community Health Needs Assessment also found that children spent an average of 1.9 hours watching TV and 0.8 hours on a computer or a tablet on an average day of the week.
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King said when it comes to youth obesity the focus should be on behaviors that can be changed.
“We want to look at behaviors to set them up for success, but still give them room to grow,” King said.
Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into a child’s diet, going for a walk everyday or avoiding sugary drinks are some behaviors that King mentioned could lead to a healthier lifestyle.
“An apple a day and a walk a day keeps the doctor away,” King said.
The Dayton Children’s Healthy Me program focuses on setting goals like those to reduce the risk of hypertension and diabetes and over a long period of time reduce weight. King’s program sees patients from ages 2 to 22.
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