Families key in tackling childhood obesity

New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests families should take a bigger role in tackling obesity.i The guidelines are targeted at health care professionals to help them work alongside families to identify and manage weight issues in children. The guidance highlights the detrimental effect that families who are in denial about their child’s obesity can have on adopting a lifestyle weight management programme.

Obesity is a major public health issue with childhood obesity continuing to rise steadily in the UK; in the 2011/2012 school year, 23% of children in reception were overweight or obese.ii With over 90% of the excess weight in girls, and over 70% in boys, gained before the child ever gets to school ageiii its clear public health education should focus on the early years if we are to make a difference.

Professor Atul Signal, Chair of the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF) and Professor of Paediatric Nutrition says: “What happens to children in their earliest years is key to health outcomes in adult life. We know that obese children are more likely than their lean peers to develop conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer in adulthood. But we also know that making lifestyle changes in young children can be a challenge. Unhealthy behaviours develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviours with healthy ones requires time and the right support. The ITF welcome’s the new guidance and hopes that it will focus attention on the early years as a critical window of opportunity to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.”

For practical advice so that families can take small steps towards better health that are impossible not to achieve,visit the ITF’s resources for families:

1. The Infant & Toddler Forum brings together an independent, multi-disciplinary team of experts and practitioners from paediatrics, neonatology, health visiting, dietetics, and child psychology, to share new ideas and to debate the latest thinking in infant and toddler nutrition. Best practice guidance on food and feeding for all young families is paramount for children’s health and wellbeing now and in the future For more than nine years the Forum and its partners have strived to raise awareness and promote positive change in the field of toddler nutrition and feeding behaviour, with all guidance being in alignment with DH increased emphasis on early years intervention.

2. The Infant & Toddler Forum is supported by an educational grant from Danone Baby Nutrition. The views and outputs of the group, however, remain independent of Danone Baby Nutrition and its commercial interest

i. NICE Public Health Guidance: managing overweight and obesity amongst children and young people (PH47)

ii. NICE press release: Families need more help to tackle obesity in youngsters

iii. Gardner DSL et al, Contribution of early weight gain to childhood overweight and metabolic health: a longitudinal study (EarlyBird 36). Pediatrics. 2009;123(1):e67-e73.

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Further Reading

  • By Melanie Pilcher and Dr. Gillian Harris Establishing bedtime routines for toddlers and young children
  • By Dr. Gillian Harris, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Birmingham and ITF member Most parents will struggle at some point to get their toddlers to eat certain foods. Is toddler food refusal a sign of an eating disorder. or is it merely a phase? In the run up to Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Gill Harris provides practical advice to help parents tackle fussy eating in toddlers.  
  • By Lucy Upton, on behalf of the Infant and Toddler Forum On behalf of the members of the Infant and Toddler Forum, I am proud to announce the launch of a new infant feeding educational programme, which includes practical resources for frontline healthcare professionals (HCPs) working with parents and infants.