Poverty and obesity are abetting COVID-19 in sickening Shelby County’s young people|Weathersbee – Commercial Appeal


Posted: July 1, 2020 at 5:45 pm

The notion that young people cant get COVID-19 is proving to be asfar-fetched as the internet rumor that gargling with salt orvinegar in warm water will kill the virus that causes it.

Thats especially true here in Shelby County.

According to the Shelby County Health Department, more than 4 out of 10 people testing positive for COVID-19 are younger than 34.

Thats a lot.

Thatpercentage is probably partly due to more people being tested, and to younger people shunning masks and social distancing because they believe, well, that the virus loves old, sick people more than them. But another culprit exists.

And, again, that culprit is poverty.

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Nearly 35 percent of children in Shelby County are poor. The child obesity and overweight rate, according to a 2019 community health needs assessment by Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare,is 39 percent.

Living infood deserts and within budgets that cover the cost of sweetened fruit juices easier than the the expense of real fruits lead manychildren to become overweight or obese.

In fact, Dr. Joan C. Han, director of the pediatric obesity program at LeBonheur Children's Hospital, said obese boys are five times more likely to be obese as adults, while girls are nine times more likely to wind up in that predicament.

But now, it seems obesity is a key indicator of whether someone will wind up with COVID-19 - and young, obese people; i.e., the ones younger than 34 here, are especially vulnerable to it.

Johns Hopkins Hospital cardiologist David Kass, the co-leader of a recent study published in The Lancet,told Johns Hopkins Magazine that their findings indicated that young people who wind up with COVID-19 and are hospitalized for it are likely obese.

To Han, those findings make sense.

"People around the country are acting as if this is an older person's disease, but the truthis that If you have obesity as a young person, your risk of getting COVID-19 is so much higher," she said.

"In fact, the risk of children as young as two years old, who need to be intubated and on a ventilator is three times higher from obesity ... we have really severe obesity here, andthat raises a lot of concerns about what COVID-19 does ..."

Kass also said that with the advent of COVID-19, younger people must treat obesity as a serious pre-existing condition.

But many people inShelby County can't afford the cost of that treatment.

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, poor, mostly Black people in Shelby County were filling their pantries and refrigerators with ramen noodles, pasta, processed meats and other foods more suited to stave off hunger than to make them healthy.

The younger people, people ages 18 to 34 whose obesity is predisposing them to COVID-19, arent likely to embark on a healthier eating quest when their budgets, or their parents' budgets,are strained by layoffs and furloughs, and the costs of produce and healthier fare wont allow them to stock up on enough groceries to last through the end of the month.

That's the real injustice here.

The people who are comprising a large group of COVID-19 sufferershere should, ideally, be perfectly equipped to avoid it. Being younger than 34 should equate to the kind of hardiness that should make their immune systems impenetrable to most viruses.

But thepoverty that poisonedtheir opportunities for good health as children is making them more vulnerable to being sickened and dying from a pandemic as adults.

And while gargling with salt water or lemon, or other magical means to prevent COVID-19 don't exist, many of the victims younger than 34, more than likely, could have avoided it by eating healthier.

That is, if they could only afford to do so.

You can reachTonyaa Weathersbee at 901-568-3281, tonyaa.weathersbee@commercialappeal.com or follow her on Twitter: @tonyaajw.

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Poverty and obesity are abetting COVID-19 in sickening Shelby County's young people|Weathersbee - Commercial Appeal

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