INDIANAPOLIS — A new study by Indiana University found that obesity levels in central Indiana children are continuing to climb.

According to researchers at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health in Indianapolis, one in five children between the ages of two and 19 in central Indiana are considered obese.

Examining date from Jan. 1, 2014, to Dec. 31, 2022, researchers found that childhood obesity in central Indiana increased:

  • 32% in females
  • 39% in males
  • 69% for Hispanics
  • 66% for Asians
  • 96% in 2- to 5-year-olds
  • 40% in 6- to 11-year-olds
  • 26% in 12- to 19-year-olds

Overall, childhood obesity was found to have increased by nearly 36% during this time frame with more than half of that increase occurring during the pandemic years of 2020 to 2022.

Marion County had the highest rates of childhood obesity in central Indiana.

“There is not one single factor that contributes to childhood obesity,” said Thomas Duszynski, assistant professor at the Fairbanks School. “Too many Hoosiers face significant barriers to health. This report lays the groundwork for future action to address the barriers that prevent our neighbors from being healthy and help kids and families in central Indiana achieve better health.”

Data used in the research was contributed by numerous hospitals from Boone, Hamilton, Hendricks, Marion, Hancock, Morgan, Johnson and Shelby counties. Jump IN for Healthy Kids funded the project.

Jump IN CEO Julie Burns said the organization can now use this data to more effectively address health inequities across central Indiana.

“Having this data is a huge win for public health,” said Duszynski. “We can’t begin to work on prevention and treatment until we understand the prevalence of an issue. And now, central Indiana has almost a decade of data that will create a baseline for health care providers and children’s health partners to track and identify obesity rates.”