Monday, July 12, 2010

The War on Fat

I am a big advocate of stopping youth obesity. There should never be a need for it and in a nut shell I think it comes down to bad parenting. Children do not have much choice when it comes to what is being put on their plate to eat, it is up to adults to decide what is best for their children. Yet, how right am I?

Here is a clip from the nzherald

"Leading doctors in Britain will today demand tough government action to curb the nation's addiction to unhealthy food, and so help halt spiralling rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Senior medical figures want to stop fast-food outlets opening near schools, restrict the advertising of products high in fat, salt or sugar and limit sponsorship of sports events by fast-food producers such as McDonald's."
Isn't this great? I'm not sure. I think the best way to curb child obesity and therefore adult obesity is through education. It is definitely the most effective in my opinion but it is one that takes a long time to see results and here lies problem; we live in a world where immediate results are cherished. 
At the school I work at, I would estimate the children who are beyond the healthy guideline would be no more than 2% of an 800 child school. This is because the school has had a long standing education on healthy eating and good fun exercise. You would also think that this school has great parents as well. 
"Mr Lansley received unexpected support from Professor Stephenson and Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners both strongly criticised parents for setting their children a bad example by overeating, serving poor-quality food and exercising too little.
"Parents are role models for their children. It's crucial that they set the tone for what the children eat and their physical activity," said Professor Stephenson."

Did you think about the socioeconomic status (SES) of parents and the school when you were reading this post? I bet not. The school in mention is in the 80th percentile in terms of SES which means that families that go to the school are on average in the 80th percentile in terms of SES. 
So where does this lead me? Bad parenting is only part of the reason why there is youth obesity. Those groups that have a higher rate of youth obesity also have a lower SES. The reason for this is...junk food costs less than healthy food. 
How can you compete with Fish and Chips which costs less than $10 to feed a family of 5. McDonald's may cost a little more but it is easy, tastes great (to most) and has toys to please the children.
Food courts has extremely good value for money but they aren't looking out for your interests. 
To buy a healthy meal isn't astronomical in terms of price but it is a lot of effort. There are those parents who work their butts off for their children (and are in the lower SES). When they get home they are tired and it is easier to just buy the children something (we've all done it before, just not on a day to day basis). Bad parenting? Maybe, but you have to realise that we live in an ever increasing world and food is one of those products that just keep getting more expensive. This expensive world is punishing those lower SES families. 
"They also want "fat taxes" to be imposed on foods that cause the most dietary harm and introduce cigarette-style warnings for schoolchildren about the dangers of a bad diet."
One way to force families to change their ways is to make junk food more expensive. Force them to look into alternative ways to feed their children. Yet we have to be careful because I've seen many children from different schools not bring any lunch to school simply because their parents didn't give them any.  
I'm not a fan of "fat taxes" but cigarette style warnings may be a start. 
I know that bad eating in conjunction with little exercise is the causation of the obesity rate but those things that lead to bad eating and little exercise...there are many factors and they are all correlated. It is hard to find the panacea for this epidemic but it starts with education, those children who have been brought up with this education will hopefully in turn, teach good eating values to their children.

Quotes taken from: