Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 11:24 AM EDT

DURHAM, N.C., Aug. 16, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Children gained weight at a faster rate during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to previous years, according to a new study funded by the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program at the National Institutes of Health.

NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program Logo
NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program Logo(PRNewswire)

Childhood obesity is a serious health condition that can affect long-term health and quality of life. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts were concerned that the closure of schools and recreational facilities could cause an increase in childhood obesity due to a reduction in physical activity and dietary changes.

ECHO researchers analyzed changes in children's body mass index (BMI) before and during the pandemic and investigated whether changes in BMI varied based on race, ethnicity, pre-pandemic BMI, or household income. In general, children gained weight at an increased rate during the pandemic but children in higher income households were at a lower risk of excess weight gain.

"This study highlights the need for interventions to mitigate the physical and mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Emily Knapp, PhD. "The conditions faced by families during the COVID-19 pandemic may have led to an acceleration of weight gain in children. This study highlights the need to support less resourced families, who have borne the worst consequences of the pandemic."

Dr. Knapp and Aruna Chandran, MD, ECHO Program investigators at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, led this collaborative research effort published in Pediatrics.

Knapp, E. A. et al. Changes in BMI During the COVID-19 Pandemic. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2022-056552

About ECHO: ECHO is a nationwide research program supported by the NIH. Launched in 2016, ECHO aims to enhance the health of children for generations to come. ECHO investigators study the effects of a broad range of early environmental influences on child health and development. For more information, visit

About the NIH: NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information, visit

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SOURCE NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program

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