Experts: More screen time, lack of healthy foods driving weight gain in kids

Hawaii experts: More screen time, lack of nutritious foods driving weight gain in kids

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Childhood obesity was already a major public health problem before the pandemic, but doctors say it’s getting worse amid the pandemic with kids stuck at home.

“You can see that the kids are gaining 10 to 15% more than they were expected the gain,” said Dr. Nadine Tenn Salle, chief of pediatrics at The Queen’s Medical Center.

She says overweight kids are gaining more and the average ones are putting on extra pounds as well.

Salle said factors driving the weight gain include a lack of in-person school, structured activities and youth sports. Plus, kids are putting in more screen time.

“Kids no longer have access to nutritious foods so they’re eating junk food, which are just high calorie. They’re gaining weight and so their nutrition is even poorer,” she said.

Brandy Richardson teaches fitness classes and is also a health and physical education resource teacher for the DOE.

“I’ve gotten parents reach out saying I just want my kids to be able to move,” said Richardson.

With shrinking budgets, she’s worried about the future of PE in public school.

For now, they’re trying to make it work safely.

“I was at two campuses, teachers had cones lined up and they got their routine in place. Obviously, the class sizes where smaller, they were outdoors and it was great to see,” she said.

Joshua Akiona is with Hawaii 5210, which promotes healthy activities for kids.

He said their school wellness visits have been curtailed due to COVID, but their message of healthy habits is more important than ever.

“I think the old adage that abs are made in the kitchen, the same thing can apply,” said Akiona.

“When we are trying to limit childhood obesity and keep the kids active, it’s mostly about making sure they make good choices,” he added.

Salle, meanwhile, says there is hope.

They are beginning to see kids get more active as they go back to in-person school.

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