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Pediatricians raise concerns over rising obesity among kids during pandemic

Kids are stuck in front of computers, some with little access to healthy foods, and it's catching up, or adding up, to weight gain.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — We know that kids have not been as adversely affected by COVID-19 as older adults have, but that doesn't mean they are not affected in other ways. 

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd with Children's Minnesota says they've noticed a disturbing trend.

“We knew heading into the pandemic that childhood obesity was a problem, and what we're seeing since the pandemic has started, is that rates of obesity are on the rise in kids that we're taking care of," she says.

And the changes are significant.

“Kids who are coming in weighing five, 10, sometimes even 20 pounds more now than they did in March,” says Dr. Goepferd.

No in-person school means no physical education classes, for some, no sports, and no access to healthy foods.

“Just the moving around that kids naturally do in schools. They're moving around their classroom; they're moving from classroom to classroom,” she says. “And right now, they're home sitting in front of computers all day long, so kids have become incredibly sedentary.”

Obesity rates are already a bigger problem for Black, Latino and Indigenous kids. COVID-19 is exacerbating that.

“I think we should be pretty concerned. What we know about childhood obesity is that kids who are obese become adults who are obese,” Dr. Goepferd says.

She adds that it's not too late to reverse this trend. But it's a whole family issue; kids do what they see.

“We, as a society, are under a lot of stress right now and all of us, adults and kids, have different coping mechanisms for stress and one of those is our eating habits and our eating patterns," says Dr. Goepferd.

"How is the family eating? What is the family's activity pattern? Where are they getting food? Are they cooking meals in the home? Think about it as family health and not just the child's health,” she says.