I have addressed previous blogs’ data showing a 27% decrease in physical activity rates since the Pandemic began. I have also reflected on published data showing the increased risk of death associated with higher BMIs, specifically due to visceral adiposity related to increased inflammation. There is no doubt our habits and day-to-day lives have been radically altered as we navigate new Pandemic terrain.
A new perspective by Surabhi Bhutani from San Diego State University and colleagues published in Obesity raises the alarm on the potential impact that weight gain due to the Pandemic may have on population health. The authors extrapolate data on weight gain seen at holiday-time or vacation time and point to concerns that the home confinement many are experiencing globally in the Pandemic is a cause for concern.
We know from the published literature that fat mass can accumulate in a relatively short period. People with overweight and obesity are at higher risk; we are now six months into the Pandemic. The weight gained during this time is likely to be persistent for a large segment of the population. Adding to this, the worsening mental health due to stress, insomnia, and anxiety, having a holistic multi-sector approach will be essential to address the health issues.
While more people are cooking at home, trying to recipes, and baking from their homemade sourdough starters, millions are now unemployed and relying on food banks to feed their families. According to PBS News, one in ten Americans doesn’t have enough food. Those experiencing food insecurity were already on the ride pre-Pandemic; things have only gotten worst in that regard.
Leveraging Telehealth and Digital Tools
Healthcare has also pivoted to telehealth; this also includes programs and approaches to support people in weight maintenance. Since over eighty percent of Americans own a smartphone, can digital health solutions be leveraged to support a holistic health view? Health coaching by phone would be one service to support people this time that has largely already been delivered through virtual channels.
The Pandemic runs the risk of widening gaps that already exist in healthcare and public policy, with many more people being left with chronic conditions to manage throughout their lifespan. We have an awareness of what works, but a multi-sector approach, which has been challenging pre-Pandemic, will need to be prioritized as we mature into our new normal.
Thanks for reading – Trina
(Opinions are my own)
Bhutani, S. and Cooper, J.A. (2020), COVID‐19–Related Home Confinement in Adults: Weight Gain Risks and Opportunities. Obesity, 28: 1576-1577. doi:10.1002/oby.22904