The WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) has delivered its final report on this global health issue. It provides a sobering reminder that childhood obesity is reaching alarming proportions in many countries and poses an urgent and serious challenge.
There are now 41 million overweight or obese children in the world. The fastest growing areas are in low and middle income countries and especially in Africa.
The Report shows that obesity can affect a child’s immediate health, educational attainment and quality of life. Children with obesity are very likely to remain obese as adults and are at risk of chronic illness.
We have long known that our modern society has created an obesogenic environment that encourages weight gain and obesity. Energy imbalance has resulted from the changes in food type, availability, affordability and marketing, as well as a decline in physical activity, with more time being spent on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities.
The Report is clear that no single intervention can halt the rise of the growing obesity epidemic. Addressing childhood and adolescent obesity requires consideration of the environmental context and of three critical time periods in the life-course: preconception and pregnancy; infancy and early childhood; and older childhood and adolescence.
The Report focuses on recommendations in the 6 key areas shown in the graphic. There are 36 associated recommended actions in the Report.
The Report concludes that there is an urgent need to act now to improve the health of this generation and the next.
The Implications for the YMCA in Australia
- Our role can be significant considering the interactions we have with so many children in so many different settings.
- In each of these settings and each planned interaction with children we should address any of the recommended action areas that we can.
- YMCAs should continue to consider the obesogenic environment that children live, play and learn. We should endeavour to influence that environment in any way that we can
- YMCAs should make every effort to ensure that our environments do not contribute to this obesogenic environment
- We should consider ways that we can assist in the treatment of obese children
- We should consider our role in the life course, especially preconception and pregnancy; infancy and early childhood; and older childhood and adolescence
- We should strengthen our advocacy efforts in this area
- We should continue to partner with other agencies in the advocacy for a national Physical Activity Action Plan
- The importance of sugar sweetened beverages in childhood obesity has been reinforced and we should continue our advocacy efforts as part of the Rethink Sugary Drinks partnership and among other things call for the government to investigate a tax on soft drinks and to limit the advertising of junk food to children