Last time, Childhood Obesity News looked at developments in the United Kingdom, and today we take a peek at what has been going on with one of England’s neighbors and two of its former colonies.
In Ireland, there are 300-pound teenagers and growing concern. The country has a hospital-based service, W82GO, for obese children up to age 16. Currently, 91 patients are on the waiting list (average wait time 20 weeks) for its healthy-lifestyle program. Fiona Dillon describes it as providing families with guidance about activities, as well as counseling in health, nutrition, and self-esteem. The staff includes a clinical psychologist, a pediatrician, a physiotherapist, a nurse, and a dietician. The director is senior physiotherapist Grace O’Malley, who is quoted as saying:
Your sleep controls your growth but also your appetite, so a lot of kids who are not sleeping will gain weight. It becomes harder to move around, and there can be breathlessness, sore joints and there is very often an embarrassment associated with moving. We have had some really good success with teens. And when we get the children younger it’s easier because they have got growth on their side.
O’Malley is not the first health professional to point out that younger is better. The earlier an intervention can happen for a child sliding into obesity, the better. Best of all, of course, is prevention, always.
The University of British Columbia issued a report that found obesity rates “at an all-time high,” with at least one quarter of all Canadian adults qualifying as obese. But the Fraser Institute, according to an uncredited Huffington Post article, disagrees. The think tank published its own report with the title, “Obesity in Canada: Overstated Problems, Misguided Policy Solutions.”
So one group is saying that Canadian obesity increased between 2003 and 2012, and another is saying it did not, and it all comes down, apparently, to how they massage the numbers. Part of the confusion comes from either reliance on, or doubt of, BMI measurements, which is a whole different and important issue. What the Fraser Institute does not seem to want is for government money to be spent on anti-obesity initiatives, which would impose costs indiscriminately on everyone of every weight class. The reporter says:
In response to the claim that obesity places additional burden on Canada’s health care system, the institute says that most costs are borne by the individual in the form of lower income, more sickness, fewer employment opportunities and possibly a shorter life span.
In the minds of many people in other countries, Australians are a hardy race of wiry, toned crocodile wrestlers. This stereotype is unfortunately not accurate. In fact, 60% of the adults are classified as overweight or obese, along with 25% of the continent’s children. One major movement is to discover what type of intervention helps families most, because there is no doubt that the entire family needs to be involved in the weight-loss efforts of any member.
Interestingly, parents with unhealthy eating habits often resort to controlling-type feeding strategies (such as pressure to eat and overt restriction) in an effort to develop healthy eating habits in their children. Such strategies appear counterproductive, as they interfere with kids’ ability to self-regulate their appetite, adversely affecting their eating habits and, in turn, their weight.
Like many of their counterparts elsewhere, Australian health-care professionals and authorities recommend family meals, home cooking, fresh produce, smaller portion sizes, and involving children in the preparation and if possible the growing of food. They urge parents to switch over to treats and rewards that are not edible, and most importantly, to substitute water for sugar-sweetened beverages.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Irish teens weighing 22 stone on waiting list for obesity programme,” Independent.ie, 08/21/14
Source: “Obesity Epidemic In Canada A Myth, Says Fraser Institute,” HuffingtonPost.ca, 04/29/14
Source: “Tackling childhood obesity: Part One,” ATMA.com.au, 09/02/14
Image by John LeGear