THE good news is that the number of overweight five-year-olds in Lothian has gone down. The bad news is that the number of overweight five-year-olds in Lothian has gone down slightly. And actually, that is very bad news. It means that progress has been mostly static over the last ten years.
Childhood obesity is now widely recognised as a major health issue. It means a person is in all likelihood looking at a lifetime of worse health issues than an optimum weight child.
Body image and weight is a complex issue and there is no doubt that it can lead to other side effects, particularly among older, teenage children. The number of children being treated for eating disorders is steadily growing.
So the answer might be to tackle it when the children are very young.
There are always two parts to weight issues, the taking in of the calories and the expending of the calories – roughly, it’s about finding balance – with an admission that there is also energy needed to grow.
So children need to eat better and be aware of what they are doing from a very early age, and they also need to get to like activity and exercise.
Nurseries and schools can help by providing education about food and indeed, by providing good, nutritious food. They can help by educating children about exercise and giving them an environment where they can experiment with activities and exercise. And let us not play down just how powerful an early-induced love of sport can be. That can stay with an individual and bring a lifetime of benefits.
But the truth is that nurseries and schools are not the biggest influence in the lives of young children, parents are. Perhaps, as the fight against obesity gets more urgent, it will be taken to parents. Educating the parents of obese children might be controversial, but it might be the best help.