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Rise in infant BMI observed during pandemic: Study

by Pragati Singh

A study that looked at body mass index (BMI) among mostly Medicaid infant patients in Norfolk, Virginia, two years before and one year after the epidemic began discovered a significant increase in BMI.

When these differences were analyzed by gender, the increase was only significant for the female cohort, according to the study, “Examining the Effects of COVID-19 Lifestyle on Pediatric BMI.” There was an 11% mean increase in the BMI of girls, the study found. The authors also observed there was a significant correlation between screen time and family time increases during the pandemic and rising pediatric BMIs, as families spent more time at home because of the lockdowns.

Data was collected from 238 patients (51% female-identifying, 49% male-identifying, and the majority were African-American/Black) with an average age of 9.47 for females and 9.57 for males. Pediatric patients and their parents/guardians were given a questionnaire that examined six potential sources for lifestyle changes that could affect BMI, including fast food intake, time spent with electronic devices, and children’s activity levels.

Dr. John Harrington, one of the senior authors of this study and the division director of General Academic Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia, said the study shows how difficult the lockdowns were on families as parents worried about their children being outside and around others, children missed out on physical education classes and team sports at school, and more time was spent scrolling social media and playing video games.

“This study reinforces that the health of all communities was negatively impacted by the pandemic, especially lower income and predominantly African-American communities,” he said.

According to the authors, this study adds to our understanding of what factors influence children’s BMI. This study, the authors write, can help health care providers develop approaches to steer their patients toward healthier lifestyle choices in an increasingly computerised world by pinpointing the elements that are most strongly connected with a rise in BMI. Greater resources are also required in communities with high poverty rates, limited access to open spaces, and few options for purchasing healthy produce, according to the authors.

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