Soaring child obesity levels one focus at WHO meeting
Childhood obesity in Pacific Island Island countries and other regions around the world is the focus at a WHO meeting later this week in Ghana.
The Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Colin Tukuitonga, says the Pacific is raising the most obese generation in its history.
He says this is being repeated in other parts of the world and will be the focus of a World Health Organisation committee that he will be chairing later this week in Accra in Ghana.
Dr Tukuitonga, a medical doctor and a former staffer at the WHO, says the agency's Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity of which he is a member, has been developing a combination of responses.
Don Wiseman began by asking him about the levels of childhood obesity in the Pacific.
COLIN TUKUITONGA: What we've heard a lot about is obesity in adults. What we haven't really had good information on is the levels of obesity in children but we do know from school health surveys in a number of small island states that it's becoming a problem. At least a quarter of the boys and about thirty percent of the girls are overweight or obese and the issue is not just the level but the fact that it's trending upwards.It's a fairly serious prediction that we're going to be raising the most obese generation of young people in the region for the first time ever.
DON WISEMAN: So in terms of interventions by this WHO agency that you're a part of, what ideas have you been looking at?
CT: Well there are several things. One is early part of life, nutrition just before pregnancy and during pregnancy, early life intervention, and what kids are weaned off onto, encouraging breastfeeding, those sorts of things and then much later on of course looking at the policies around advertising of food and beverages to children and some limitations on those. It's really trying to address what's regarded as the "obesogenic environment" - the types of food that are being available, that are being offered to kids in school, for example, the advertising of and the marketing of those food items that we regard as not the best for you, so there's a range of things being considered.
DW: A lot of these measures have been talked about, haven't they, over a period of time and getting them in place, getting them to work is completely another thing.
CT: That's right. We know things that work but knowing something works and actually putting it in place is the challenge and the report is going to be looking at what governments can do to assist the school environment and what's purchased in the community, so it is very much that challenge. We know enough but how do we make it stick?
DW: The levels that you talk about, in another 15 years can you imagine if nothing happens, where we might be?
CT: Oh I think, I mean I don't have the exact modelling figures but I would hazard a guess that in the next 10, 15 years it'll probably double . The obesity challenge we have is a relatively recent phenomenon that's occurred in adults over a period of 20 years so it's not an exaggeration to suggest that in fact the rates would double. I mean in New Zealand if you look at young people, and we know from good surveys in New Zealand, you're talking about a third, sorry two thirds of young people are already overweight and obese.
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