Department of Paediatrics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Obesity in childhood is a very common disorder with an increasing prevalence. It is one of the most serious public health challenges. The objectives of the present paper are to increase the awareness of the problem of obesity in childhood, its serious complications and the need for prevention. Overweight and obese children are likely to remain obese into adulthood and more likely to develop serious complications including health problems such as diabetes and CVD, as well as psychological and social challenges. Overweight and obesity are largely preventable. In adults it is difficult to reduce excessive weight gain once it has become established, thus children should be considered the priority population for intervention strategies and prevention. Nutrition, exercise, weight gain in infancy, genetic and environmental factors, all contribute to the aetiology. Prevention and treatment of obesity in childhood requires education and empowerment of families relating to diet and exercise, along with the regulation and control of food marketing and clear nutritional labelling. The eating and physical activity behaviour of a child is strongly influenced by environmental and social factors. Therefore treatment will have only limited success in an environment where adequate physical activity is inhibited and the consumption of high-energy food is stimulated. Government investment in a health promotion programme addressing the issue of obesity in the population as a whole, with particular emphasis on the prevention and management of obesity in childhood is vital. The family doctor and multidisciplinary team play an important role. Regular visits to the family doctor, including growth assessment, will help motivate the family to restrict energy intake and to increase exercise. Therefore the prevention of childhood obesity needs high priority.
Corresponding author: Professor H. Hoey, fax +35316246193, email email@example.com