Childhood Obesity: Fix it Early

In our previous newsletters we looked at how to identify childhood obesity, and the importance exercise plays in combating the problem. Around the developing world, many governments such as those in America, the UK and Australia have realized that they have a serious epidemic on their hands that is going to mean serious costs to the health of its population, and increased demand on their medical systems in the future. What can be done about it?

It’s well recognized that obese and overweight children often stay that way into adulthood, and that many of the dangerous disease conditions associated with obesity such as heart disease and cancer can take hold earlier in life.

How serious is the problem?
The American Obesity Association http://www.obesity.org/subs/childhood/prevalence.shtml reports that the prevalence of childhood obesity in America is over 15%. (in children aged 6-11) That is more than double what it was in 1980. In Australia during that time the figure has almost tripled.

A good place to start tackling childhood obesity is to look at what children are eating at school as well as at home. As children spend on average a quarter of their waking lives in school, one big step to improve the nutrition of children is to offer and promote healthy food and drink choices throughout the school day. The school environment, attitudes of staff and pupils, as well as what children learn in the classroom, have a major influence on their knowledge and understanding of health. If encouraged to enjoy healthy food and drink early on, it is much more likely that these positive behaviours will remain with a child throughout life.

In some countries initiatives are being put into place to help have a better diet while at school. Some schools have taken it upon themselves to provide healthier food at their school canteens and ban the sale of particularly harmful products such as fizzy drinks and chips.

Check out some of the initiatives taking place around the world to reduce childhood obesity.

In the US – The Great American Eat Right Challenge.
http://www.cancer.org

In the UK – Food in Schools Programme
http://www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/HealthAndSocialCareTopics/FoodInSchools/fs/en

In Australia – Building a Healthy Active Australia.
The Australian Government has come up with some novel TV commercials to address the other major contributor to childhood obesity – lack of exercise. The Get Moving ads are quite amusing and worth looking at.
http://www.health.gov.au/internet/healthyactive/publishing.nsf/Content/adverts

Disclaimer: Information provided on this page and during the YourDiagnosis session should not be regarded as a substitute for face-to-face medical advice by a qualified practitioner and is provided for educational purposes only.