About Childhood Obesity
Overweight and obesity is a serious, chronic medical condition, which is associated with a wide range of debilitating and life threatening conditions. Large increases in obesity rates among Australians have the potential to erode many recent health gains.
In 2011, 52.6% of adults were overweight or obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was higher among males (59.8% compared to 45.4% in females), the socio-economically disadvantaged and those living in regional and remote areas (68.5% compared to 49.9% in major cities).
The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity has stabilised in recent years. The NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) data from 2010 shows that 22.8% of children between 5 and 17 years of age were classified as overweight or obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher among boys than girls and is also higher amongst lower socioeconomic groups.
Childhood obesity is a serious concern because obese children have a greatly increased likelihood of becoming obese adults. Obese adults who were overweight as children also have higher levels of weight-related morbidity, and a higher risk of preventable mortality, than those obese adults who only became obese in adulthood.
What causes Childhood Obesity?
Overweight and obesity in children and young people is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child's weight. In 2010, 95.9% of primary school age children and 42.1% of high school age children met fruit consumption guideline. However, only 43.6% of primary school age children and 20.1% of high school age children met vegetable consumption guideline (for age).
Overweight and obesity is related to technological, social, economic and environmental changes that have reduced physical activity and increased food access and passive energy consumption. Overall, less than half of Years K, 2 and 4 students spent 60 minutes or more per day in physical activity. Boys (50.5%) were more likely to do so than girls (42.2%), but large numbers of young children failed to reach the minimum time required to have a positive health effect. From 2004 to 2010 there was a significant decline in physical activity among students in Years 6, 8 and 10, with the exception of Year 10 girls. This is a reversal of the gains observed between 1997 and 200.