Monday, September 24, 2007

Childhood obesity

Hi everyone,

According to the Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity (2004), over fifty percent of adult females are overweight or obese, while nearly seventy percent of adult males are overweight or obese. Obesity is not limited to adults however, with twenty-five percent of children being either overweight or obese. A number of schools have therefore initiated various school based programs to aid in tackling the childhood obesity epidemic. Such programs implemented in Australia include compulsory physical activity and healthy canteen programs.

One issue which continues to be a contributing factor to the growing prevalence of obesity among children is junk food advertising on television. Below I have provided a couple of links to articles which discuss the proposal to regulate or ban junk food advertising all together. What does everyone else think about this issue? Do you think all junk food advertising should be banned? Do you think that junk food advertising is a key contributor to the prevalence of obesity in Australia? I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.


Anonymous said...

hey jess,

i have a fairly strong beleif that whats in peoples' house affects what everyone eats. if parents buy junk food and its in the cupboard, of course kids are going to eat it. i know it would be hard to say no to a kid having a tantrum in the supermarket because they have seen the new ad for the new lolly, but the parents can choose not to buy it.

also, i think parents need to emphasise form a young age that junk food is 'once in a while' food, not 'everyday' food. parents have the power to affect the kids eating habits. kids at that age cant really look into the future and think about themselves being overweight and what it might do.

same with canteens at schools. if theres junk food in the canteen, kids will eat it. if theres only healthy food, they will (or should) eat it.

its like my old cat. he would never eat tinned cat food, only dry food. then my mum went on holidays and my grandma looked after us. she took away the fry food and just left the tin, which of course the cat didnt eat. until 2 days later when he was very very hungry. and then he ate the tin food. from then on in the cat enjoyed tinned and dry food, and lived a healthy life. the end.

Jessica said...

Hi Graham,

Thanks for your feedback, I think you brought up some really good points, particularly about how parents play a key role in what their children eat. It's also about modelling. If a child's parents often purchase and eat unhealthy, fatty foods, their children are likely to pick up their unhealthy eating behaviours. Instead of modelling unhealthy eating to their children, parents, like you said, need to reiterate that junk food is a 'once in a while' food and model healthy eating themselves. There are so many factors involved in this issue. Thanks for your views on the topic, and good luck with your second blog on suicide.

Josie said...

Hi Jess
I think that childhood obesity is a very important issue and that more needs to be done to help children learn healthy eating habits from an early age. I agree with graham that parents and school canteens do play an important role as they provide children with food and can therefore help monitor the sort of food children eat. However I think that junk food advertising helps to shape children's eating attitudes in an unhealthy way. I also think that advertising impacts the way that children act toward food and which foods children regard as being 'cool'. My mum always tried to pack healthy lunches for me but I would often feel left out cause lots of the other kids have chips and chocolate and so I would always wonder why I didn't have the same food as the other kids. I think that while it important of parents to help kids eat healthy i think that the children themselves should be more educated in why certain food are good and bad so that they can appreciate and understand why it is important to not always eat junk food. Reducing or baning junk food advertising would help in decreasing the thought that junk food is 'cool' but maybe schools should have nutrition or eating habits classes as well so that children are more active in making healthy eating decisions.

Jessica said...

Hi Josie,

Thanks for sharing your viewpoint on childhood obesity. It is definitely a complex issue, with numerous variables involved. I agree with you that junk food advertising can be extremely influential on what a child eats. Even if parents ensure their homes are filled with only healthy foods, if kids see appealing ads on television, they will probably still be able to access junk food somehow, whether it's from the school canteen or from friends. In one of the articles I have posted on my blog, it mentions that the UK has banned junk food advertising during children's television viewing timeslots. I think that if Australia employed such an approach, it would definitely aid in tackling the childhood obesity epidemic.

Monique said...

Hi Jessica,

I definitely think advertising is a contributor. If advertising didn't work, companies would spend such large portions of money on it. However, ultimately children cannot access junk food without their parents or others giving it to them. I believe parenting skills are therefore a big contributor as it is easier to give in to your kids then to force them to eat healthier foods. Additionally junk foods can be used to bribe children too.

Also just a note on the role of schools in nutrition, I was surprised to hear a 5 year old in her first year of school say she wouldn't have soft drink cos the school taught her it was junk food. Maybe we are getting somewhere!

Fiona said...

Hi Jess,
I think that obesity in children needs to be attacked with an all round approach, as I think so many components affect children’s attitudes to food.

Children spend half of their day at school, so I think it is equally as important as home that they are educated or made to make the right choices. I worked in a school in England when I finished school and they had a healthy eating policy where the children were only allowed to bring fruit or other healthy snacks to school for recess. When this was introduced, not only were there health benefits but the teachers found that the children had better attention and were better behaved. At the same time, ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’ generated new reforms in Britain to promote healthy lunches that are provided by the schools. I understand this has been quite effective and I’m sure will produce healthier children in Britain.

In terms of the home, I think that parents have the biggest role in their children’s health, at least at the younger ages. I don’t think that it is necessarily healthy that children are encouraged by the reward of food. From a young age I remember that if I was a ‘good girl’ in the supermarket I’ll get a chocolate bar at the checkout, or if I was a ‘brave girl’ at the doctor, I’ll get a jellybean. If children are always after a reward they will link junk food to rewards and positive connotations, instead of the negative aspects of them being unhealthy. Sure junk food is a ‘sometimes food’, but maybe it should be emphasised in its own right, without any links or expectations.

Similarly, not only should parents be responsible for what their children eat, but also of what they eat as I believe, as we know Bandura found, imitation is quite powerful among children. I think that a parent’s attitude to food greatly models what the child’s attitudes will be.

I hope this makes sense … just a few thoughts!!
Best of luck
(check out my blog!)

Anonymous said...

A SYDNEY hospital has become possibly the first in the world to appoint a doctor dedicated to treating overweight children in an urgent attempt to tackle the nation's obesity epidemic. The appointment, at The Children's Hospital at West mead, comes as the number of overweight and obese children surveys to more than 1.5 million and health systems struggle to deal with the fallout.