A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that Wyoming’s kids are some of the thinnest in the country.
The report states that the national rate of obesity for 10 to 17 year olds is 15.3 percent. Wyoming’s rate is considerably lower, and the tenth lowest in the nation, at 11.8 percent.
“Any percentage is more than we would like,” Wyoming’s State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said. “We would really like for all kids to have a healthy weight, because that puts them at a much greater probability of having a healthier life overall and not developing some of these chronic medical conditions which can really impact quality of life.”
Childhood obesity puts kids at risk of being obese in adulthood and developing several related health problems such as diabetes, depression, and breathing problems.
Dr. Harrist said that one possible reason why Wyoming’s rate is so low is the number of programs that the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) coordinates that support healthy nutrition for children and families. She said these programs need to continue and new programs should be started to keep lowering that percentage.
“Agencies and organizations and communities across the state need to look at whether our children have access to healthy food and whether they also have access to physical activity,” she said. “Because those are really the two factors that play into childhood obesity - the ability to have access to and eat high nutrient foods, as well as the ability to get out and play.”
Dr. Harrist also explained that there continue to be disparities between race, socioeconomic class, and obesity risk – something that was also shown in the report.
African Americans, Native Americans, and people of Hispanic decent are more likely to be obese than their white or Asian counterparts, though possible causes are still unknown. Additionally, those who are in a lower socioeconomic classes are also more likely to be obese. Harrist said this could have to do with a lack of access to healthy food and basic access to physical recreation opportunities.
Though the report offered no judgement of whether each state’s percentage was good or bad, it did explain that higher obesity rates can be problematic. Dr. Harrist said that the WDH is committed to lowering Wyoming’s percentage.
“While this report really helps us to know where we are, it certainly indicates that we still have more work to do,” Dr. Harrist said.
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