Parents Fail to Recognize Children's Weight Problems
Author: Research Australia
Published: 2009-07-15 : (Rev. 2010-07-12)
Synopsis and Key Points:
Once children become overweight it is often extremely difficult for them to shed these excess pounds.
Main DigestThe disturbing results showed that only 7.9% of children were considered to be overweight by their parents.
Despite constant warnings about childhood obesity, too many Australian parents are still oblivious to the fact their children are overweight, according to the findings of the national MBF Healthwatch survey.
However, this is a gross underestimation according to the recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report , which showed almost a quarter of all children (aged two to 12) are overweight or obese.
Bupa Australia Chief Medical Officer Dr Christine Bennett said, "Parents need to be extremely conscious that their failure to recognize these weight problems can be potentially damaging to their children in the long-term.
"Even taking into account recent suggestions that measures of overweight might be including some children on the border, many parents don't pick up on the risk.
"And once children become overweight, it's often extremely difficult for them to shed these excess kilos, particularly if their diet is incorrect and they are living a sedentary lifestyle.
"Therefore, it's incumbent upon us as parents to help ensure our children embrace healthier lifestyles," she said.
Dr Bennett also expressed dismay that parents' inability to recognize weight issues was markedly more pronounced with their sons.
This was typified by the fact that considerably more parents believe their daughters are overweight (10.3%), compared to their male siblings (5.5%).
In contrast, the AIHW data showed there was little difference in the prevalence of overweight or obesity between boys and girls.
Dr Bennett said she was particularly concerned regarding parents' perceptions of infants (aged up to two years old), with not one parent recognizing that their son was overweight, compared to 8% for daughters.
"It is genuinely concerning that parents are more conscious of their daughters' weight than their sons, and this has to change," Dr Bennett said.
"Unfortunately, this may mean an overwhelming number of boys experiencing weight problems will not receive timely assistance to rectify the problem as a direct result of their parents' failure to recognize and address the problem at a young age."
She went on to say that overweight children have a significantly higher chance of developing long-term health problems and that obesity can have a major impact on how children feel about themselves and interact with others.
The main causes of childhood obesity include a lack of physical activity, poor diet - including high fat and sugary food choices - and family eating habits.
To help overcome this, Dr Bennett encouraged parents to:
Lead by example and start eating healthier options
Ensure families eat meals together as often as possible
Encourage children to eat a healthy and balanced diet
Allow children to choose which activities they want to be involved in
Restrict time spent in front of a computer or the TV to two hours a day
Make exercise fun and reward children for their efforts.
Additionally, Dr Bennett said MBF had a link to a body mass index (BMI) calculator for children on its website via www.mbf.com.au/bmi
"I would strongly encourage parents to consider talking to their GP if their child's BMI is outside the healthy weight range for their age and sex," she said.
Bupa Australia cares for its customers under the brands MBF, HBA, Mutual Community, ClearView and Bupa Care Services.
The MBF Healthwatch survey was conducted by research consultancy TNS' dedicated healthcare research division. More than 1200 people were surveyed in the study.
- 1: Childhood Obesity Calorie Calculator : Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health (2012/08/15)
- 2: How Teenage Boys Perceive Their Weight : Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (2014/11/20)
- 3: Obesity NOT a Disability According to Most Doctors on SERMO : SERMO (2015/01/15)
- 4: Teen BMI Weight Linked to Heart Failure Risk in Early Middle Age : European Society of Cardiology (2016/06/17)
- 5: Obesity Rate Difference in Children With and Without Autism : Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus (2016/10/17)
- 6: Americans Getting Even Fatter : Northwestern University News Center (2011/11/16)
- 7: Evaluation of Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program Examines Transdisciplinary Doctoral Training Program : University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (2018/02/27)
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