Scientists find a strong link between this health problem and COVID-19 death

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In a new study, researchers found the prevalence of obesity in a population is linked to negative outcomes from COVID-19.

They found a strong link between the prevalence of morbid obesity and cases of—and deaths from—COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The researchers suggest their findings can help identify resources needed for obese patients and inform mitigation policies.

The research was conducted by a team at The University of Alabama.

Obesity is known to increase the risk from respiratory infections and hinder pulmonary function, and there’s an emerging pattern in the treatment of COVID-19 patients that obesity is a pervasive problem and linked to negative health outcomes such as requiring a ventilator.

The current global pandemic of COVID-19, which is highly contagious with presumed high mortality rates, has dramatically increased the need to understand the association between obesity and negative health outcomes from respiratory disease, particularly death.

In the study, the researchers used deaths from COVID-19 compiled nationally at the county level by The New York Times and estimates of obesity rates for each U.S. county.

They looked at adults aged 18 to 64 and found that obesity rates are positively linked to COVID-19 case and death rates and that obesity rates can explain 9% of the variation in COVID-19 death rates.

Moreover, by overlaying the data geographically, the researchers found that spatial clusters of high rates of obesity are linked to spatial clusters of high rates of COVID-19 deaths.

Although there are anecdotal reports of obesity complications in patients with COVID-19, most formal studies so far of this link have been in China, which has lower obesity rates, and in-hospital settings.

The findings suggest that areas with larger obese populations will need greater resources for effective treatment of COVID-19, as more cases and deaths should be expected as compared with the general population.

One author of the study is Dr. Kevin Curtin, UA professor of geography.

The study is published in the World Medical and Health Policy.

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