Feature: Child Obesity
There has been increasing coverage of child obesity in the media lately. This is welcome, as it is a very serious problem. Some scary statistics:
- One in five Australian adults is obese, and a much larger proportion (67% of males and 52% of females) is overweight and obese.
- Over 5% of children are obese and 14-18 % are overweight.
- These children have a very high probability of progressing to adult obesity.
- Obesity in general trebled in the 10 year period from 1985-1995.
- Annual direct costs of obesity in Australia are between $680 - $1239 million (for 95-6).
- Childhood obesity leads on to other health risks: heart disease, elevated insulin levels, lower self-esteem, and orthopaedic complications.
- These risks continue and worsen into adulthood.
- Type 2 diabetes, (formerly termed ‘late-onset’ diabetes) has now begun to appear among Australian adolescents and is being diagnosed in increasing numbers. This is an ominous development in view of the potential omplications of diabetes which include heart disease, stroke, limb amputation, kidney failure and blindness which may occur at a much earlier age.
Source: NSW Childhood Obesity Summit Communique (PDF, 237Kb)
Child Obesity Symposium at Westmead
A symposium on adolescent obesity was held at Westmead Hospital recently, as reported by the Parramatta Advertiser (Fast Food puts Death on the Menu, 28/8/02). The article quotes Dr Michael Booth stating that "there has been a four-fold increase in childhood obesity between 1985 and 1997". Some of the issues involved are:
- Concern for children's safety outdoors, especially traffic dangers.
- More car ownership, fewer short trips taken on foot.
Why Cycling Can Help
CAMWEST thinks cycling could play a great role in addressing this very serious issue. Increased physical activity, together with a healthy diet, are the way to go. Incidental activity, such as cycling and walking, work well because they are integrated into children's everyday activities. Imagine children cycling safely to school and sport. They would have the freedom to explore their neighbourhoods, while parents would be freed from being full-time taxi drivers!
Parramatta Council and the RTA need to continue to introduce improvements to make cycling safer for our children. Our report on Parramatta features a number of these. Our community bike rides often involve children and parents for a day of fun.
In the Media
Childhood Obesity Triples: AMA Launches National
Awareness Campaign (AMA Media Release)
Federal President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, has highlighted the increasing problem of child obesity in Australia. She said childhood obesity in Australia had tripled in the past 10 years, with 19.5% of boys and 21.1% of girls now overweight or obese. Paediatrician at The Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney, Associate Professor Louise Baur, said the whole community needed to better understand the 'potent forces' promoting obesity in Australia. "Increasingly we are using motor vehicles, instead of walking or cycling".
The lost battle: one in 10 boys obese (SMH,
"Obesity rates among primary school boys have trebled in just five years".
drop their bundle (SMH, 7.1.01)
Houston, Texas is America's new 'fattest city', after Philadelphians went on a mass diet. Don't laugh - Australia's obesity statistics are worsening. Encouraging cycling (particularly for children) is a great way to tackle this serious health problem.
The Obesity Epidemic - Radio National's Okham's Razor. The West is experiencing an epidemic directly affecting a greater proportion of the population than did either the Black Death of the 14 century or the influenza epidemic that occured during and after the First World War. Nutritionist Chris Forbes-Ewan from Tasmania talks about the 'obesity epedemic' that is sweeping the developed world: what's causing it and its significance to health.
of the fat, home of the big (SMH, 26.7.01)
On obesity in America. Is this the way we're heading? Let's do something about it before we get there.
NSW Childhood Obesity Summit Communique (PDF, 237Kb)
A great way to help children to walk to school safely. With child obesity the huge problem it is, getting kids (and parents!) to walk and cycle to school is a good option. Incidental activity, such as cycling and walking, work well
because they are integrated into children's everyday activities. Imagine children cycling safely to school and sport. They would have the freedom to explore their neighbourhoods, while parents would be freed from being full-time taxi drivers!
What you can do
Write/Email to your State MP, and tell them how much you care about children's health and the role cycling can play to address this issue. See our sample letter asking for better bike facilities (change it a bit with your own thoughts if you can).