Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Obesity: The Problem Is Getting Bigger…

The new Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has announced a program to have all children weighed before they enter preschool. They will also be measured and have their body mass index calculated, all as a part of a new initiative to combat obesity. Now while it certainly won’t hurt, the question is will it help?

If the measurements are simply written up in a report and filed away it is not going to achieve anything. As a first step to encouraging more active measures it does have something to offer. Despite some criticism that this might encourage eating disorders among sensitive children, I believe that promoting awareness of good health habits from an early age can only be a positive step.

If a child is weighed and measured, and is also given a comprehensible explanation as to why, that child can learn to make healthy judgments for himself. The key to this is not just the measurement, but the message. Kids are already getting a lot more useful information about good health and nutrition than previous generations, but for some reason it isn’t always getting through. The reason is the cacophony of mixed messages that are bombarding not just kids, but all of us.

While we are urged to eat better food we are also flooded with junk food advertising. While we are told to get more exercise, we are constantly reminded that it’s not safe to go outdoors. And for kids, the biggest factor is the example being set by Mum and Dad. As confusing as all this can be, it’s not (as they say) rocket science. Good food, exercise, fresh air. Unfortunately, we seem to have developed a lifestyle where these things are hard to fit in between all the other pressures and distractions that envelope us.

The Healthy Kids Check, which will also encompass sight and hearing, is a step in the right direction, but success will depend on the steps that follow.

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