Pediatricians: Pandemic causing increased rates of childhood obesity

Mental and Physical effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic
Kids in school
Posted at 9:09 PM, Feb 11, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV)-- Pediatricians across the nation have seen how the pandemic has affected children's mental health. But they are also seeing alarming trends in their physical health. They say there is a growing number of children becoming obese.

You may have heard of the term "COVID bump," a sudden weight gain caused by the pandemic. Pediatricians say it's real, and the effects may not be so easily remediated.

"How are you, and how are you doing with both home and in school?"

This is the first question Dr. Janet Crow asks her kids who come in for their annual check-ups at UCSD Health. It is a simple but important question, considering the life-changing events caused by COVID-19.

"They are dealing with the more older people in their life relationship, and not with that horizontal relationship," Dr. Crow said.

With no school, no activities, and no interactions with friends, she says it is causing alarming trends from the youngest children to teens.

"The little kiddos, all of a sudden, they're acting out," Dr. Crow said. "When we get into the older kids, I'm really seeing more depression, no question."

Dr. Crow says, just as she sees a decline in mental health, their physical health is also suffering.

"We are seeing clear jumps in the growth chart from some of the kids who were in normal ranges, into the obese range," Dr. Crow said.

Busy parents rely on high fat, processed fast foods, and computer-bound kids are snacking instead of eating healthy meals. This is a behavior Dr. Crow says might not go away even after the lockdown.

"When we go back into normal times, if kids go into stress times and they have traumatic flashbacks of whatever happened during this year, some of the things that comforted them become their go-to's, and one of those, unfortunately, is eating," Dr. Crow said.

Obesity then causes anxiety and depression, and the cycle continues. That is why Dr. Crow and her colleagues from the American Academy of Pediatrics California chapters are asking the Governor to ditch the color-coded tier system and give parents the choice to send their kids back to school.

"Looking at best practices, and not at the tier system, you can find matched districts that have similar kinds of distribution of socio-economic distributions and find out those that have done well, and let's join with them," Dr. Crow said.