SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota's youth weigh in as relatively svelte compared to those nationwide.
That's the immediate takeaway from new data released today in a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The organization found 10,00 children age 10 to 17 in the state are obese, totaling 11.9% — below the national average of 15.3%.
Meanwhile nearly one in three South Dakota adults is obese, according a different recent study.
The state's youth obesity rate held steady in recent years, with the most recent study ranking South Dakota as the 11th lowest state, the foundation's study said. The Mississippi child obesity rate stands at 25.4%. Utah had the lowest at 8.7%.
Regionally, North Dakota's childhood obesity rate stood at 13.4% while Minnesota's was 9.4%.
The data shows significant disparities tied to race and income level, not just geography. Black and Hispanic youth had obesity rates higher than White or Asian youth. And 22% of youth in households making less than the federal poverty level were obese, more than double the rate of youth obesity in households with four times their income.
“These differences by race, ethnicity, and geography did not happen by chance," said Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in a news release. "They are a result of discriminatory policies and systems that have been in place for decades. However, we have the power to change these outcomes and make our nation a more equitable society. The more we understand the barriers to good health, the more we can do to address them. ”
Obesity matters because it can put those with it — be they children or adults — at great risk for many other diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. According to one study, preventing obesity in early childhood leads to lower rates of obesity by age 14.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation identified a number of policy shifts that have lowered obesity rates among children in recent years, including healthier school meals and snacks, and healthy updates to the food packages provided through the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program.
"Despite being in the upper-third of states, childhood obesity rates in South Dakota remain too high," said the South Dakota Department of Health in a statement. "We know that childhood obesity leads to chronic health conditions in adulthood. The Department of Health will continue to work with parents, childcare providers, schools, healthcare providers, and community partners to ensure South Dakota kids learn healthy behaviors and develop healthy habits early."
The data comes from the 2017 and 2018 National Survey of Children’s Health along with analysis conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau.