Obese children lose in life expectancy: report

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) is calling on doctors, parents, schools and governments to make childhood obesity prevention a priority.

This „call to arms,“ as termed by Dr. Alan Hudak, a pediatrician with the OMA, came with the alarming discovery that children in Ontario may not live as long as their parents.

An obese child has a 70 per cent chance of becoming an obese adult and may face several consequences earlier on. In addition to possible self-esteem issues, an obese child has a greater risk of hypertension, high cholesterol and high blood pressure – known risk factors for cardiovascular and heart diseases in adulthood.

A growing concern found in adolescence is type 2 diabetes, with children accounting for over 50 per cent of new diagnoses. The solution suggested in the OMA’s latest report „An Ounce of Prevention or a Ton of Trouble: Is there an Epidemic of Obesity in Children?“ is a back to basics approach.

Ted Boadway, executive director of health policy, emphasized small environmental changes need to be made, rather than a big fix attempt.

The report highlights 12 recommendations for physicians, families, schools and government to act on.

Though several of these recommendations include structural changes – screening for weight problems, restrictions on food advertising to children under 13, and one hour of aerobic physical activity per day in schools – the focus for change is primarily on families.

Dr. Greg Flynn, OMA president, cites busy lifestyles – due to single parent families or households where both parents work – as a challenge to healthy living.  Dr. Flynn – who states that he practises what he preaches – stresses that parents need to set an example.

This means they should make healthy changes to their own diet, enjoy a television-free dinner hour, and take their children outside to play. As a parent himself, Dr. Flynn understands the challenge for working parents to encourage healthy eating and regular exercise.

He adamantly enforces that parents “make it a priority.” A specific example to help parents, offers Dr. Flynn, would be to turn off the television and computer between 6 and 8 p.m.  In place of these pastimes, he states confidently “they’ll play.“

A complete list of list of recommendations can be found online at the OMA’s website.

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