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.

Posted in News, Position StatementsTagged

Further Reading

  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   Following his recent recovery from coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly blamed excess weight for his need for intensive care. He has subsequently declared a war on the UK’s obesity crisis and is planning a post-pandemic public health drive to battle the growing problem.
  • Katie Fox, Primary School Teacher   Due to coronavirus, playgroups and nurseries are shut and those children due to start school in a few months will be out of routine and away from friends. It is understandable that many parents are worried about getting their children ready for September. Children learn and progress at different rates so there are no set criteria on what they need to be able to know or do when they first start nursery, but if they have had some experience learning at home it could help to make it a smoother transition. Turn taking games, imaginative play, reading, and developing fine and gross motor skills can promote independence, build confidence and help develop simple skills.
  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist Dr Maddy Harris, Clinical Psychologist   In times of crisis – such as the one we are currently living in – parents may find that the normal stresses of everyday life are magnified and additional worries and concerns emerge. Knowing how to cope may prove difficult, but an approach which has widely been discussed in the media and on social media is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).The premise of ACT is that fears and anxieties are seen as real and cannot be ‘challenged’ away, unlike with cognitive behavioural therapy. By concentrating on our actions we are able to work past our fears. This method may help those struggling with this new chaotic routine we find ourselves in. The Infant & Toddler Forum are here to help with our top tips on how to apply this intervention.