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Crises converge: The pandemic may have made childhood obesity worse

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.


Children tend to gain weight in the summer when schools are out, studies show, and a letter in medical journal Obesity already estimated an increased obesity rate in children of more than 4% if they remained out of school for five months.

What's happening: School meals are a critical source of calories and nutrition for children across the U.S. Without schools meals, gym classes or commuting, the sedentary virtual learning environment has given children an extended summer, The Counter reports.

  • "It's certainly very likely that these two crises, the childhood obesity epidemic and the COVID pandemic, are intersecting in many ways," said Jamie Bussel, senior program officer for children's health at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The big picture: During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide give some flexibility in allowing children and families to still obtain free meals through the National School Lunch Program and summer program, regardless of income or address.

  • But most schools and food insecurity programs were preoccupied with the logistics on how to safely deliver food and pick-up sites to families and fresh foods were sometimes not possible. The USDA allowed more processed and frozen foods in meals for convenience and to free up supply chains.
  • Due to staffing shortage of cooks and cafeteria workers, schools have been handing out more frozen and shelf-stable foods, according to a survey from the School Nutrition Association. This change has also made it easier for less deliveries.

The bottom line: Childhood obesity is a strong indicator for obesity into adulthood, which increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and puts them at greater risk for severe consequences from COVID-19.

  • "We have way more families facing way deeper challenges now and whether because of income or concerns around safety and health, it can be a lot harder for families these days to access affordable healthy foods right now," Bussel says.

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Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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