Childhood obesity to skyrocket: new WHO figures

overweight boy with salad

New figures released by the World Health Organization have revealed that the global rates of childhood obesity could rise from 41 million children affected to 70 million in the next decade unless urgent intervention is taken.

The report commissioned by the WHO, Ending Childhood Obesity, says the alarming rates are in part the cause of unhealthy food and beverage marketing saturating children’s environments and a decrease in physical activity.

The report recommends government promote healthy diets by means of “effective taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages and curbing the marketing of unhealthy foods”.

National Heart Foundation CEO, Prof. Garry Jennings AO says the findings should increase the pressure on government to act now and issue its own strategy for tackling obesity in Australia.

“Governments are failing in their obligation to help provide the healthy start to life every child deserves,” Prof Jennings says.

“While we cannot ignore the global nature of the childhood obesity epidemic, tackling the problem must begin in our own backyard.”

“For the first time in history, the number of Australian children aged 5–17 years old classified as either overweight or obese exceeded 1 million in 2014–15.

“The Australian Government has a real opportunity to be a leader in curbing this global epidemic by implementing local strategies that have real impact, but instead it continues to shy away from the problem all together,” he says.

“We have been face-to-face with the reality of the problem for a long time and no-one can deny that action is needed – and needed now.

“Preventing weight gain in our younger generations today by encouraging parents and children to make healthy food choices and move more and sit less is fundamental to our collective health tomorrow.”

There is no single intervention that will halt the childhood obesity epidemic, the Foundation says; instead cooperation on both a local and global level is the key.

It says it is important the government engage constructively with the entities that directly or indirectly contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic, such as the food and beverage industry, retailers, and other governments, to encourage the implementation of policies designed specifically to tackle this mounting problem.

The Heart Foundation continues to call on the Government to develop and implement a comprehensive national obesity prevention strategy and National Physical Activity Action Plan as measures to curb Australia’s growing obesity crisis.

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