Childhood Obesity and Games

Games

Dr. Pretlow has observed that medicine doesn’t embrace the Internet as a means of care or research. As days go by, this becomes less of an obstacle. Acceptance creeps in around the edges and even the upper echelons of establishment medicine begin to get a clue.

Certainly, the Internet has always been embraced by the organizations and businesses that have reason to care about a health issue, in this case, childhood obesity. Some of their efforts are noble and sincere, while others are transparent bids for a share of the growing anti-obesity industry. Some catch on and some don’t, for reasons that might be worth thinking about.

Almost three years ago, a company called FoodFun told the world about itself:

Our initiatives are based on the FoodFun Pyramid, which focuses on learning objectives by age, and FoodFun’s brand pillars of health, simplicity, accessibility, education, fun and commitment.

The object was to help kids between three and eight “create their own relationships with food, namely healthy foods.” This caused the company to produce a trio of games called FoodMoves, FoodFarm, and FoodFlash. Card and board games, they were physical objects, modeled on such well-known old standbys as Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Match Game, and flash cards. A descriptive page says that:

[…] they familiarize your child with food names, food groups, and the concept of a balanced diet. So the first time Junior sees Brussels sprouts on his plate, he won’t melt down… Tiered instructions allow you to tailor the experience to your child’s age or comprehension level, and all games can be played one on one or with a group.

The FoodFun program was on the bandwagon with the “Make Healthy Eating Fun” slogan of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign, then in its second year. The literature also made the bold claim, “It’s the start of a new food nation.” This prediction did not pan out, and FoodFun doesn’t seem to still be around.

Screen time reconsidered

Video games, TV watching, and even studying have all been labeled as childhood obesity villains. They all involve sitting around, and a consequent lack of exercise. But the claim has been made that “Not All Screens Are Equal When It Comes to Obesity Risk.”

Bonnie Rochman reported for TIME on the Boston Children’s Hospital study of kids between 13 and 15. The purpose was to determine how different kinds of screen time compare in the sedentary sweepstakes:

It turns out that only television — in particular, paying close attention to what’s on the tube — is associated with heavier kids… They found that teens spent more than three hours a day watching television — more time than they spent with any other sort of screen — and that those teens who paid the most attention to the shows they were watching had the highest BMI. Meanwhile, paying close attention to video games or computers was not linked with weighing more.

Some say the difference is that TV carries constant ads about food. Others say that gaming doesn’t leave the hands free for the the task of conveying food to mouth.

(To be continued…)

Source: “Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign Ushers in Second Year,” Free-Press-Release.com, 02/15/11
Source: “How to Win the Healthy Eating Game,” DailyCandy.com, 01/04/11
Source: “Not All Screens Are Equal When It Comes to Obesity Risk,” TIME.com, 04/08/13
Image by FunFoods.

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