Childhood overweight and obesity

Providence County, RI
United States

Rhode Island Department of Health’s Center for Health Data and Analysis Brown University School of Public Health Progreso Latino Health Equity Zones Providence Office of Healthy Communities NOURISH RI

Examining the root causes of childhood overweight and obesity in Rhode Island to raise awareness and develop community-driven recommendations that reduce racial and ethnic disparities.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, the Rhode Island Department of Health, Brown University School of Public Health, and four insurance plans have collaborated on a project to collect accurate childhood overweight and obesity data for Rhode Island by city/town, race and ethnicity, age, gender, and health insurance status. This collaboration will provide the first clinical, claims-based dataset on childhood overweight and obesity in Rhode Island.

The data show a concerning increase in childhood overweight and obesity in Providence County since the onset of the pandemic, as well as persistent and unacceptable disparities by race and ethnicity, community, and insurance status. Rates of childhood overweight and obesity are considerably higher among Hispanic children and non-Hispanic Black children compared with white children, and the four Rhode Island communities with the highest child poverty rates have among the highest rates of childhood overweight and obesity. Such disparities can be explained by systemic differences in access to healthy foods and safe spaces for physical activity. To raise awareness of these findings, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT will facilitate community convenings with the support of local organizations including Progreso Latino, Health Equity Zones, the Providence Office of Healthy Communities, NOURISH RI, and youth and parent organizations to discuss the data, examine the root causes of childhood overweight and obesity, and develop community-driven solutions to address racial and ethnic disparities.

A project advisory committee including representatives from partner organizations and other organizations that serve people of color in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket will help develop the agenda for two community data walks, conduct outreach to residents, and support the development of a policy brief. The conversations that occur during these data walks will help raise public awareness about the root causes of racial and ethnic disparities and inform the policy brief. The brief will include data, messaging strategies, and policy recommendations that community leaders can use to drive change at the city, school district, and state levels. These informed recommendations will include legislation or budget reallocations that address access to nutritious and affordable food and safe places for residents to walk, recreate, and exercise.