Childhood Obesity: A Growing Health Threat

Childhood obesity has more than tripled during the past thirty years. Today, .nearly a quarter of British children are either overweight or clinically obese by the time they’re old enough to enter primary school, A few years later, when they progress to junior school, a third of pupils will have joined the ranks of Billie and Bessie Bunters. These disadvantaged youngsters will get teased, and have little chance of covering themselves

in glory in the gymnasium or sports field. Worse still, they’re more likely than their peers to lose time from school through sickness. Roly-poly youngsters are now suffering diseases which were once the preserve of overweight adults. In the last five years there’s been a ten-fold rise in the number of children developing Type 2 diabetes. At thirteen, some obese youngsters have been found to show signs of ‘stiffening’ of their aortas, a degenerative disorder previously only found in the over fifties. This has led the British Heart Foundation to issue a warning that childhood obesity has now become a ‘ticking public health time bomb’.

Concerted efforts must be made to tackle this growing menace, which threatens to place an intolerable burden on the UK economy and National Health Service. Studies show that 80 per cent of children who are obese in their pre-teen years will grow up to be gross adults. This will add to the national toll of sickness absenteeism, which is currently costing the British economy £17 billion a year, for research has revealed that portly employees have twelve times the level of sickness absenteeism as their slimmer, fitter counterparts. Overweight school leavers will meet discrimination when they set out to find a job. This prejudice was exposed in a recent poll of two thousand human resources professionals, 93 per cent of whom said that they would always choose a trim applicant over an obese candidate, if the two had the same experience and qualifications.

Some schools are trying to tackle the obesity plague by introducing ‘five-a-day’ fitness programmes, when classes are briefly interrupted while children carry out star jumps, twirls and disco dance movements. In 2005 Sainsbury, the supermarket chain, introduced an ‘Active Kids’ campaign which has donated over £52 million of sports equipment to UK schools, the most popular items being skipping ropes, bean bags and footballs. These are welcome initiatives, but the finest intervention of all is for parents to set their children a good example. Every child is born with a sweet tooth. Doctors find that many children are started on the road to obesity before they’re two years old. The blame, they say, lies with the parents who feed them with inappropriate foods like chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks. Parents and school teachers should themselves adopt a healthy life style, sure in the knowledge that it they do the youngsters under their care are likely to follow their example. This is best done by making a series of small, incremental changes, which gradually build up into a coordinated programme of beneficial life style change. This can be done by following the series of tips published each week on This advice is evidence based, completely free and unaccompanied by any form of commercial advertising.


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