Doctors' efforts to fight childhood obesity not working
Fri, Sep 4, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are recommending that officials in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia rethink their efforts to combat obesity in children because the current strategies -- emphasizing healthy diets and exercise -- aren't working.
In a study released online Sept. 4 in BMJ, Australian researchers followed more than 250 overweight and mildly obese Australian children who visited their general practitioners between 2005 and 2006. A total of 139 were given counseling over three months about changing their eating habits and increasing exercise; the other 119 did not get such counseling.
Parents said the kids who received counseling drank fewer soft drinks, but they didn't eat more fruit or vegetables or less fat, and they didn't lose significant amounts of weight.
The researchers reported that brief, physician-led intervention produced no long-term improvement in body mass index, physical activity or nutrition habits.
The counseling isn't harmful, the study authors noted, but it doesn't seem to work and is expensive.
"Resources may be better divided between primary prevention at the community and population levels, and enhancement of clinical treatment options for children with established obesity," the researchers concluded.
-- Randy Dotinga
What you can do:
- Find out how much exercise your child needs. (links)
- Check out five fun ways to get your child moving. (links)
- Learn about the nutrients your child needs and how to make sure he or she gets them. (links)
- Find out how you can encourage your child to eat healthier foods
I get that obesity is a public health epidemic and we must address it on all fronts. BUT. I really do think that the primary and ongoing responsibility falls to the parents. What behavior is modeled for the children? What food is offered to the children? What food is available to them? We need to model healthy, active lifestyles when they are small. And after that, too.
But many of us tend to offer our children food as rewards, give our children snacks to keep them quiet (in the car, in the stroller, in the grocery cart), and go to the gym while they're at school or asleep. We might even feed our children different foods from what we're eating ourselves.
What are we teaching children about the role food plays in their lives? What sorts of healthy behaviors are we modeling?
I'm not the parent of two extremely energetic salad-eating children. Ada is lean and active (and still loves broccoli and fruit). But she also loves hot dogs and we need to monitor the junk to food ratio we serve around here. Ellie is a different story. When she ate only healthy food as a toddler, she loved it! But, gradually, she met things like pizza and quesadillas and cheesy pretzels. Granted, these aren't the worst things in the world. But we know what she likes and tend to make "child-pleasing" meals for her. Who doesn't want to make their child happy?
She seems to lack the "I'm full!" body/brain notification system that her sister has but many fat adults (like me!) have battered into submission. And she fights exercise so hard. Unless we're at the swimming pool or gymnastics, Ellie is miserable when we do any sort of family exercise like going for a walk or bike ride. We work really hard to make physical activity fun for her - choosing new and interesting places to walk, rewarding walks with pushes on a swing, listening to books on tape during stretches in the trailer while mommy and daddy ride bikes. This weekend we started soccer.
It's hard work. But it's our job. And her health depends on us doing it well!
(Sidenote: I was shocked to see what the elementary school cafeteria is feeding kids these days. At Ellie's school, they have pizza day once a week. They also eat sloppy joes, hamburgers, and hot dogs. I remember some of that from when I was a kid, but not every day! We thought those lunch days were special treats.)