What Can Wales Do to Tackle Childhood Obesity Problem?
Child weight gain is a major family wellness problem in Wales, as new figures from Public Health Wales show that over 28% of five-year-olds in Wales are overweight, with 12.5% of children classed as obese. Although you might think that obesity affects the wellbeing of those in England or Scotland more than in Wales, the figures show that obesity in Wales is “significantly higher” than in every region in England, where on average 23% of children are overweight, with 9.5% classed as being obese. Only 21% of Scottish children are overweight, of which 9.8% are obese.
Dr Nadim Haboubi, an obesity doctor and chair of the National Obesity Forum for Wales, commented, ‘Take a look at any school photograph from the 1970s and you would hardly see any child who is overweight. Now it’s not unusual to have quite a few in each class picture. It’s also revealing that in the 70s a 10-year-old child was about 10kg lighter than the kids today. So I’m not surprised by these results, sadly. And it’s down to a combination of many things. Most important is the sedentary lifestyle. They are far less active – many parents drive them everywhere and are worried about their safety when they let them go out to play.
He continued, ‘Another factor is the availability of junk food and fizzy drinks – you go into a shop or garage and the availability of chocolates and sweets is shocking. And of course, there is the fact that overweight kids are more likely to have obese parents and they are more likely to carry on being overweight until adulthood. It is a huge challenge and there is not an easy solution But I think a lot more resources and attention are needed to stop this epidemic.’
Dr Ciaran Humphreys, consultant in public health for Public Health Wales, agreed that the findings indicate a real wellness change is needed across society. ‘This can be anything from making our communities more pedestrian and bicycle friendly to reducing access to unhealthy fast food near schools,’ he said. ‘As with most health risks, the sooner they are tackled the easier they are to address and the greater the long-term benefits. Encouraging healthy eating and regular exercise at a young age provides children with an excellent start and helps them grow up to be healthy adults.’
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