Parents must help in reducing child obesity, says report

Parents are being enlisted as the first line of defence against obesity in children after a report today revealed that nearly 10% of Britain's six-year-olds are overweight.

The costs of obesity are high both in health and financial terms - an obese person loses an average of seven years of life compared to someone with a healthy weight, and yearly costs to the economy and the NHS are estimated at £2.6 billion.

According to a new report from the Health Development Agency (HAD), obesity in children is rising, and research shows that up to 8.5% of 6-year-olds are obese, and in adults, nearly two-thirds of men and half of women are either overweight or obese.

However, the report found that involving parents and children together in family-based programmes "proved to be effective" in treating overweight and obesity in children. The most successful programmes included physical activity, diet and a mix of other components such as lifestyle counselling.

Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Health Development Agency, said: "Parents can make a huge impact on rising levels of childhood obesity. The good news is that the evidence shows parents can successfully treat their child's obesity by actively changing the whole family's approach to diet and physical activity and by avoiding couch-potato lifestyles. The myriad of child-focussed food advertising is a real challenge, but parents can fight back - it's them paying at the checkout, not their children."

Schools are also found to have an important role in preventing obesity and overweight in children, particularly in girls. By using a combination of methods, typically including nutrition education, modifying school meals and tuck shops, teacher training and promoting physical activity, a reduction in obesity was observed. This whole school approach, where what is taught in the classroom on obesity is reflected elsewhere in the school environment, is most successful.


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