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Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels and needs better intervention

Harold Mandel's picture
An overweight girl eating chips

Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels and needs more aggressive intervention. It appears the consumption of too much junk food coupled with sedentary lifestyles is largely to blame for this problem. Kids are targeted for mass marketing campaigns by companies that sell unhealthy high fat, high calorie foods, which is making this problem worse. Clearly, more aggressive measures are needed to deal with the problem of childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity has become a global epidemic and the incidence of this serious health hazard is continuing to increase, reported the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health via the National Institutes of Health. Possible interventions for childhood obesity are dietary interventions and nutritional education. However, it is often found that restrictive diets can lead to negative outcomes. It is therefore generally felt that it may be more effective to encourage children to consume more fruit and vegetables and thereby to develop a healthier positive attitude towards food.

However, this research has shown that in order to tackle obesity effectively narrow interventions which focus on single aspects of behavior are not very likely to achieve long-term change. The researchers have concluded that for public health interventions to meet with success a more holistic approach is needed which targets behavior change in various aspects of children's lifestyles and their surroundings, including:

1: Nutritional education

2: Parental support

3: Physical activity

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Broad public health interventions are seen as the best way to proceed in efforts to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic, reports Manchester University via Alpha Galileo. The public health researchers from The University of Manchester have observed that single dietary interventions are not effective at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among overweight children and will not be effective in undermining the global epidemic in childhood obesity. This research team from Manchester Urban Collaboration of Health (MUCH), which is based at the University of Manchester, have said that broader public health strategies are instead necessary as obesity figures continue to increase.

Children, adolescents and adults have been hit hard by the global obesity epidemic. The Manchester researchers reviewed studies looking at dietary interventions to tackle obesity. Dr Paula Whittaker, who is a lecturer in public health at The University of Manchester, has commented, “We conducted a systematic review of literature of interventions to increase fruit and/or vegetable consumption in overweight or obese children. We found narrow interventions focusing on single aspects of behavior are unlikely to achieve long-term change.”

Michael Bourke, who is a fourth year medical student at The University of Manchester who worked on this study, has shared that he feels a holistic approach is needed to target behavior change in multiple aspects of children’s lifestyles and their surroundings. This includes nutritional education, parental support and physical activity. This suggestion is good because obesity is a serious condition which can last throughout a lifetime without a durable strategy to cope with it. Obese children have an increased risk of becoming obese adults. Obese kids are therefore also at risk of numerous other medical conditions in later life which are associated with their condition, including a reduced life expectancy.

The obesity epidemic among our kids is apparent all around us. It has been my observation that far too many of our kids are addicted to junk food and sedentary lifestyles. The addiction to sedentary lifestyles, instead of spending more time with dance, sports, and other healthy activities, appears to be associated with the high tech revolution which has our kids spending too much time in front of the screens on their computers and other devices. This is also exposing them to unethical high powered marketing campaigns by firms pushing low cost junk food on them. The high tech revolution has a lot to offer, but only in moderation.

Clearly, due to the multidimensional aspects of the problem of childhood obesity, it is reasonable to assume the Manchester researchers are on target to suggest more aggressive public health initiatives to tackle this problem. Failure to try to help our kids eat nutritious food is actually a form of abuse, as I have reported in a separate article for EmaxHealth.

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