COVID-19 Related School Closings and Risk of Weight Gain Among Children

Andrew Rundle, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Perspective paper alerting researchers and lay public that COVID-19 school closings are likely to mimic the effects of school summer recess and increase the risk for childhood obesity. The project is now transitioning to a research effort to test the hypothesis that the school closings with increase behaviors linked to childhood obesity. In many areas of the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools and some of these school systems are not expected to re-open this school year. The experiences in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore suggest that social distancing orders, if lifted after short periods, will have to be periodically re-instated to control COVID-19 flare ups. In short, we anticipate that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely double out-of-school time this year for many children in the U.S. and will exacerbate the risk factors for weight gain associated with summer recess.