Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsWhat can we do about it? If not prevented or treated at an early age, obesity has the potential to be a lifelong condition, increasing the risk of developing into non-communicable diseases that often do not become apparent until adulthood, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease and stroke), musculoskeletal disorders, and some types of cancer, but are now often seen in adolescence. There is also evidence that behaviours and lifestyle choices track from various degrees into adulthood, contributing to the risk of disease decades later. Therefore, the first five years of life represent an opportunity to develop healthy habits that will have a big impact on children's well-being, growth, and development.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsIndeed, the first five years of a child's life are critical, as the experiences children have at this age will help shape the adults they will become. In regards to childhood obesity, the good news is that childhood obesity and its associated diseases are mostly preventable. Healthy dietary habits and eating behaviours, regular physical activity, minimising screen-based sedentary activities, and having a healthy sleep pattern can help prevent childhood obesity.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 secondsBut it is important to be aware that children's lifestyle behaviours, such as their dietary pattern, physical activity, and screen time habits, as well as their sleeping patterns are influenced by their surrounding environment. Environment and policies that make regular physical activity and healthy dietary choices available, affordable, and easily accessible to everyone, particularly to the poorest individuals, are extremely important. Therefore, governments, international partners, the civil society, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector, we all have vital roles to play in contributing to the obesity prevention. Given the short and long-term health consequences of childhood obesity, the problem of childhood obesity is a societal one. And therefore, it requires a population-based, multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary, and culturally relevant approach.

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 secondsAs children cannot choose the environment in which they live in or the food they eat, and have a limited ability to understand the long-term consequences of their behaviours, they are particularly vulnerable to obesogenic environments. And therefore, they require special attention when fighting the obesity epidemic.

What can we do?

The obesity epidemic threatens to create a generation of children who may die before their parents…

Obese children and adolescents suffer from both short-term and long-term health and social consequences. Overweight and obese children often experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease including insulin resistance (a pre-diabetic condition) and adverse psychological effects such as depression and anxiety. They are also likely to have fewer friends and to experience bullying. Overweight and obese children are also more likely to become obese adults, but childhood obesity affects cardiovascular health in adulthood, even in the absence of obesity in adulthood.

GOOD NEWS: Childhood obesity is mostly preventable!

“The good news is that childhood obesity and its associated diseases are mostly preventable. Healthy dietary habits and eating behaviours, regular physical activity, minimising screen-based sedentary activities, and having a healthy sleep pattern can help prevent childhood obesity” (Dr Rute Roberto Dos Santos)

Over the next 4 weeks we will be looking at each of these areas closely, beginning with nutrition. Which of these areas interests you the most and what are you looking forward to learning more about?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Preventing Childhood Obesity: an Early Start to Healthy Living

University of Wollongong