12 Oct 2021

Childhood obesity: Is it being taken seriously?

Fight against childhood obesity remains 'an uphill battle

Childhood obesity is not a cosmetic issue or something the child will just grow out of. Obese children tend to become obese adults, and there are many medical issues associated with obesity. Children are now taking the same type of medications as their parents to manage blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol.  Population-based survey of 5-17-year-olds revealed that around 70% of obese children and adolescents have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and it has been well established that the condition can increase the risk of musculature diseases, diabetes and cancer.

Why have we seen such an increase in childhood obesity?

Weight status in children is determined by body mass index (BMI)-for-age percentiles. This calculates a child's weight category based on their age and BMI. A child is deemed overweight if their BMI-for-age percentile is over 85% and deemed obese if it is over 95%.There is no doubt that the main causes of childhood obesity are an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.

The availability of liquid calories and empty calories, combined with a deluge of fast food and junk food advertisements, have changed the way children eat. The majority of children fail to meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity and spend a huge amount of time sitting. The way we've structured our daily lives makes it hard for children to live healthily."

Parents 'not taking childhood obesity seriously'

"[Parents] often do not recognize when their children are becoming overweight. Because young children at a healthy weight look skinny and because children who are overweight are becoming the norm, parents often do not realize when their children are not on a healthy track. They only start to worry when obesity affects their day-to-day lives."

Could schools do more to help tackle childhood obesity?

Guidelines require schools to have a higher offering of whole-grain rich foods, offer only fat-free or low-fat milk products, offer fruits and vegetables to all students every day of the week, limit calories based on the age of the student to ensure they receive the correct portion size, and increase focus on lowering the amount of saturated trans fat and salt in foods.

"Schools play a very critical role in encouraging healthy behaviors in children. Many children spend a significant amount of time at school where both good and bad habits can develop. Physical activity and health education should be mandatory for those in kindergarten through high school."

Overall, it seems childhood obesity is receiving much more attention, and health care professionals are in agreement that obesity campaigns