The State of Globesity

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It’s still Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in America, but that doesn’t mean childhood obesity has ceased in the rest of the world. Not by a long shot! Last month, Chris Weller reported that the U.S. and Great Britain are about even, with childhood obesity at about 18% in both countries. Britain fears that, by 2050, their childhood obesity rate will reach 25%, and seems to be experiencing much more agitation for new laws at the national level. Weller says:

These 10 include education programs for healthcare professionals, weight management services, nutritional standards for hospitals, increasing support for new parents, nutritional standards in schools, decreased fast-food outlets near schools, junk food advertising, sugary drinks tax, food labeling, and an environment conducive to activity.

The previous year, however, Rebecca Smith wrote for The Telegraph that Britain’s way of gathering childhood obesity statistics was probably inaccurate and inadequate. The schools have been using the Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement standard, which showed three out of 10 kids to be in the overweight or obese category, but Smith wrote:

Now experts have said this is leading to an underestimate of the extent of the childhood obesity problem because it does not take into account where on the body the children are carrying their extra weight. If waist circumference was used as well as BMI, then four out of ten children would be classed as overweight or obese, the researchers said.

One of these experts was educator Clair Griffiths, who told the reporter that the BMI measurement protocol can cover up differences in body composition and “central adiposity.” The difference between the two methods is significant.

Other newspapers were more upset about the Leeds University report:

In Britain, childhood obesity is far worse than feared with thousands of girls as young as 11 years in one town sporting waists bigger than an overweight woman… Shockingly, at the age of 11, more than 2000 girls in Leeds exceeded a waist line of 31.4 inches for increased risk in female adults.

For The Nation, Dr. Pavintra Harinsoot Somnuke explained the situation in Thailand:

While the problem in western countries has been building for decades, Thailand’s childhood obesity problem is a more recent phenomenon. Statistics from Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health reveal significant increases in the rate of obesity among children. In the past five years, the percentage of obese pre-schoolers rose from 5.8 per cent to 7.9 per cent; in school-age children, the obesity rate went from 5.8 per cent up to 6.7 per cent over the same period.

It may come as a surprise to Westerners, but Dr. Somnuke notes that there are shopping malls in almost every town in Thailand, as well as fast food franchises. There is almost universal access to televisions and computers in homes, and many Internet cafes, and sedentary screen-watching is blamed for the kids gaining too much weight.

Also, in Thailand, as in many other places, more parents are working outside of the home, and fewer meals are being cooked and enjoyed by the family together.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Britain’s Childhood Obesity Problem Swells,” SorenDreier.com, 08/13/13
Source: “Thousands of overweight children missed by BMI measure: research,” Telegraph.co.uk, 06/15/12
Source: “Overweight 11 year-old-girls highlight obesity epidemic in UK,” Bioscholar.com, 06/15/13
Source: “Childhood Obesity: A Weighty Problem,” The Nation, 01/29/13
Image by dirkb86.

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