The epidemic that will far outlast COVID-19

More young children than ever are suffering from diseases that were once reserved for unhealthy adults. And that bothers me… a lot. 

But there’s more bad news…  

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study just confirmed that kids with preventable health conditions—like diabetes, obesity, and some heart issues—were more likely to be hospitalized and become severely ill with COVID-19 

Let’s dive into the numbers… and ways to END these health risks once and for all.  

Preventable deaths 

This research looked at more than 43,000 kids and teens with COVID-19. Ultimately, it linked higher risk of hospitalization, death, intensive care, and mechanical ventilation with the following conditions: diabetes, obesity, epilepsy, convulsions, high blood pressure, trauma, asthma, and sleep and stress disorders. 

In fact, of the nearly 43,500 kids who tested positive for COVID-19, around 10 percent were admitted to the hospital; 30 percent ended up in intensive care; and a little over six percent required a ventilator. 

In addition, chronic disease was a factor in 22 percent of the children overall—and in more than half that were hospitalized. In the end, 38 died.  

Now, this study analyzed an awful lot of pre-existing conditions—some of which we have no control over. But I can’t help but wonder if some of those 38 lives could have been saved if we started to put the health of our kids and grandkids first. 

That’s something I’ve been addressing for most of my career. And yet, the problem only seems to be getting worse…  

A crisis beyond COVID 

When I first started out, I focused on issues like weight, allergies, and asthma. But nowadays, so many teens are already on some cocktail of meds: a stimulant, anxiety medication (probably caused by the stimulant), and often something to help them sleep. 

This is how our country chooses to “fix” health problems. Because the truth is, Americans hate to change their behaviors. And that often begins and ends with their diet. 

In fact, three decades after I published my very first book, Feed Your Kids Well, we have made little-to-no progress in this fight—actually, it feels more like three steps back.  

But it’s high time we start stressing the importance of preventing and controlling chronic conditions—including (and especially) obesity—in our children.  

Of course, the food system in our country is designed to make people overweight—quite literally. In fact, the unique flavor profiles of the foods that are fueling the obesity crisis and driving overconsumption have been labeled as “hyperpalatable.” Meaning they have an addictive, one-of-a-kind taste. (Stay tuned for more on that story later this week.)  

And since we can’t rely on Big Food to address the growing concern of childhood obesity, the buck must stop with us.  

Food is nourishment, first and foremost. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the food you eat. But the childhood obesity epidemic is a crisis of the highest order—one that will remain long after COVID-19 is behind us. And it’s time we started treating it like one.  

So just as I encourage you to adopt a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh, whole foods—I encourage you to feed your kids and grandkids the same exact way. Better yet, start cooking your meals at home and learning about the importance of nutrition together. You can start with my very own Cooking With Dr. Fred show on Instagram and YouTube. 


“More Obese, Diabetic, Chronically Ill Kids Hospitalized With COVID-19.” Medscape Medical News, 06/15/2021. (