Problems with solving childhood obesity

CHILDHOOD obesity cannot be solved simply by youngsters eating less and exercising more, a public health expert has claimed.Norman Foster, from Suffolk Primary Care Trust's (PCT) public health team, said the issue of overweight children was far more complex.

CHILDHOOD obesity cannot be solved simply by youngsters eating less and exercising more, a public health expert has claimed.

Norman Foster, from Suffolk Primary Care Trust's (PCT) public health team, said the issue of overweight children was far more complex.

His comments came after figures released this week revealed that nearly a third of 10 and 11-year-olds in Suffolk are obese or overweight.

While the figures are partly a symptom of a fast-food nation and children spending more time on computer games, Mr Foster said tackling the physiological aspect alone was not enough.

He said: “Yes, if people exercise more and eat less most they would become thinner, and that applies to children as well.

“But it is much more complex than that and needs to be addressed as a holistic issue.”

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He added: “Some of it is down to transport issues. Children are not walking or cycling to school in the same way as they used to.

“Diet certainly plays a big, big part in this as well. Nobody wants to deprive children of sweets or foods that they are going to enjoy but the thing is that everything needs to be taken in moderation and needs to be balanced.

“The other aspect is that it is not just about the sheer physiology but about the mind and changing behaviours.”

Mr Foster said the figures were worrying and admitted they were worse than expected.

While the national picture has not yet fully emerged, Mr Foster said the estimates were that it too would show a third of year six pupils were overweight or obese.

He said: “On most other health issues Suffolk tends to be a bit healthier than most of the rest of the country.

“It's difficult to interpret as not all the figures from other areas are actually in. I know ours are really good figures - we have figures on 85% of all the children you could weigh and measure.

“I do not know how we compare with other areas. However you stack it up, to have a third of our kids in that age group obese or overweight is worrying.”

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