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How the COVID-19 Pandemic Worsened Childhood Obesity in Arkansas

November 14, 2022

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ACHI Staff

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The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with a significant increase in childhood obesity in Arkansas, ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson writes in his latest column for the Healthcare Journal of Arkansas.

An analysis by ACHI, as of today (Nov. 14) still being finalized, of body mass index (BMI) data for Arkansas public school children in grades K, two, four, six, eight, and 10 in the 2020-21 school year found that 26% of children had BMI measurements classified as obese, up from 22.9% in the previous year. The proportion of students classified as obese increased significantly not only among the overall group of students but in each of the grades measured.

“The pandemic disrupted all our lives,” Thompson writes. “To limit the spread of COVID-19, schools made temporary shifts to remote learning, reducing students’ access to organized physical activity and healthy school meals. … Routines were upended and stress factors increased, likely contributing to overeating and consumption of unhealthy foods. Isolation led to more screen time and less social interaction, including organized sports and recreational activities.”

Thompson concludes the column by suggesting ways policymakers and parents can encourage healthier habits in Arkansas’s kids.