By TIM CARPENTER
TOPEKA — The Kansas obesity rate for youth 10 to 17 years of age tied for third lowest in the nation at 10.6%, a national report said last week.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s analysis shows the rate in Kansas ranked 47th among the states and District of Columbia. The national average stood at 15.5% for this age group. On a national scale, based on a 2018-2019 health survey, one in seven youth were obese.
Comparable rates in states surrounding Kansas: Colorado, 10.9%; Nebraska, 11.5%; Missouri, 16.3% and Oklahoma, 18.8%. The nation’s highest rate was in Kentucky at 23.8%, while the lowest was in Utah at 9.6%.
The foundation said the latest assessment of obesity affirmed racial, ethnic and economic disparities persist. Black, Hispanic and Native American children have significantly higher obesity rates than white or Asian children. Young people in households making less than the federal poverty level are more than twice as likely to have obesity as those at the top of the income ladder.
“This year, we’ve also seen people of color and people with low incomes hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jamie Bussel, who leads the foundation’s effort to prevent childhood obesity. “The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing economic recession have worsened many of the broader factors we know contribute to obesity, including poverty and health disparities.”
The foundation said levels of obesity in Kansas ranged from 12.5% among 2-4 year olds; 10.6% for 10-17 year olds; 13.1% among high school students; and 34.4% with adults.
Congress should provide additional funding to account for an enrollment surge in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the foundation said. The organization recommended lawmakers sustain broadened access to school meal programs through the 2020-2021 year and extend reach of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC.
Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.