Plenty of NJ youth already at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes
Nearly 15 percent of New Jersey youth aged 10 to 17 are obese, according to a report released Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The state-by-state analysis ranks New Jersey's youth obesity rate of 14.8 percent as the 28th highest in the nation. The national rate is 15.8 percent.
"The key message here is that these new data show that nearly 1 in 6 young people in our country has obesity, and that puts them at greater risk for conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure," said Jamie Bussel, senior program officer for RWJF.
The 2016-17 findings are based on parents' reports of their children's height and weight.
"We can really ensure that we're addressing this public health epidemic by ensuring that schools and child care centers are offering plenty of nutritious foods and time to be physically active," Bussel said. "We should also be ensuring that federal programs that we know are critically important family supports — like SNAP and like WIC — are accessible to the families that need them."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC (the nutrition program for women, infants and children) dropped from 18.9 percent to 15.3 percent between 2010 and 2014.
Bussel said if kids maintain a healthy weight by kindergarten, they're "much more likely" to retain that trajectory well into adolescence and adulthood.
An analysis released in September found New Jersey has the 11th lowest obesity rate (27.3 percent) in the nation. Adult obesity rates exceed 30 percent in 36 states.