Earlier this year, Anisha Patel, a Stanford University pediatrics professor, started to notice a troubling trend: Child patients at the Atherton California clinic where she works have gained a distressing amount of weight.

Since the spring, she says, her patients’ growth curves, which track body mass index, have climbed their clinical charts steeply. In a matter of months, many kids’ chartlines raced past the 85th percentile, which means a patient is overweight. Today, most have broken into the 95th percentile, which is when a child becomes clinically obese.

It’s not just her. Angela Goepferd, a pediatrician at Children’s Minnesota, a hospital in Minneapolis, says children at her outpatient clinic frequently weigh 10 or 20 pounds more than they did in March. Lisa Denike, the chief of pediatrics at Northwest Permanente in Portland, Oregon, estimates that one-third of her patients have become overweight or obese over the same period.

As the pandemic rages on, the nation’s attention has focused on the immediate dangers of the coronavirus: the ongoing infection, hospitalization, and deaths of adults. But more than a dozen pediatricians and public health experts interviewed by The Counter say that a more subtle, insidious outcome should not be overlooked: a predicted surge in childhood weight gain, caused by the closure of schools.

Before the pandemic, the childhood obesity rate was already at an all-time high of 19 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But Joseph Workman, a University of Missouri sociologist who focuses on educational inequality, thinks that number is likely higher now.

“It’s really a case of one health crisis exacerbating another health crisis,” Workman said. “It’s taking what’s already considered a crisis of childhood obesity and making it worse.”

Read the full article about childhood obesity by Sam Bloch at The Counter.