This article is part of the Community Services, Charities & Volunteering topic. Below are more articles in this topic.
This article has been submitted by a GrownUps member. GrownUps accepts no liability for its content and the views and information contained within are not necessarily those of the GrownUps website.
Child Obesity Support Programme
Phone (04) 9041487
Cell (027) 3554553
What's On Top
- A couple of years ago child obesity was big news. Every week or two there were newspaper articles outlining the dire health condition of our nations' children and the impact that this would have on their lives and those of our future generations.
What happened? We hardly ever hear anything about child (or adult) obesity in the popular press these days. Has the ''child obesity epidemic'' gone the way of the SARS scare? Remember that? Or could it be that more ''urgent'' events have overtaken media reporting around the issue? I'm thinking here of the global economic recession.
Either way, this is a good example of the power of pubic media to influence the way we think about what's going on around us, in our community, and in our families. Right now there's yet another '''media scare'' around a group of school children who have come back to New Zealand from a trip to Mexico, carrying the so-called 'swine flu'; a supposedly-potentially fatal strain of influenza which requires such precautions as Health Department diagnostic monitoring and patient isolation (staying home from school or work, to prevent it's spread).
Sure, this new 'flu could be the next Bubonic Plague, but probably it's not. Precautions are good, but media hype is dubious at best. Sure, the media is an invaluable social tool when it comes to alerting the community of potential threats and challenges, but this should always be tempered with a healthy dose of scepticism and common sense.
So what about the child obesity epidemic? Was that just a load of media hype too? Probably not. The difference here is that there are numerous contemporary scientific & medical reviews and research which confirm the rise in frequency and occurrence of child obesity across the Western hemisphere. And probably the only reason we're not hearing about it so much right now is because there are a few more things which have cropped up for the media to get more excited about - such as the recession and the swine 'flu scare.
Topics Of Interest
- The Government has earmarked an extra $6.5 million for ''more beds and specialists to run residential treatment programmes for people with eating disorders'' in New Zealand.
Does this mean that eating disorders are on the rise (the article doesn't say)? For that matter, what exactly is an eating disorder? According to CREDS, the Central Region Eating Disorder Service, an eating disorder is present when a person;
· is constantly thinking about eating or not eating,
· feels out of control around food (or) uses food to meet needs other than hunger,
· becomes obsessed about food, weight and body shape.
CREDS also notes that eating disorders are classified under 'mental illness', albeit with a strong physical component.
Contemporary society tends to associate the term ''eating disorder'' with anxious teenage girls and certain female Hollywood celebrities, and the image that inevitably comes to mind is one of a stick-thin young woman swallowing handfuls of laxatives and / or throwing up her lunch in the ladies' rest room. How accurate is that image? It seems to be true that the term 'eating disorder' does tend to refer to an obsession with underweight as opposed to a tendency to overweight. For example, the CREDS website seems to focus almost solely on people who mistakenly believed or were afraid of being overweight, rather than people who were actually, clinically, overweight or obese.
My question is; can obesity as a result of ''overeating'' be classified as an eating disorder? And if so, would one then be justified in viewing obese people as suffering from a ''mental illness''?
Comments or clarification from anyone who can shed a bit more light on this would be much appreciated!
- The tragic case of Toran Henry, a 17 year old schoolboy from Takapuna Grammar who took his own life as a direct result of bullying emphasises the incredible power of peer pressure over the health and wellbeing of young people. As far as I know, Toran wasn't overweight or obese, but this hardly matters. The fact is he is now no longer with us, and this tragedy happened because he was singled out by his peers - for whatever reason - and made to feel so rejected by them as to believe that his life was no longer worth living.
It's no secret that children with significant weight challenges are often similarly singled out by their peers at school and in the community, and made to feel rejected because they look ''different''. Such rejection can be active or passive, and can be inflicted on such children not only by their schoolmates, but sometimes by adults who are in a position of great influence or authority over them. For example, on national talkback radio recently, during a discussion around child obesity, a primary school teacher rang in and spoke of one obese young girl in her class in a manner that probably would have seen her dismissed had she spoken like that about a child with, say, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.
It really made me think about the influence - either direct or subtle - that people in positions of power can have over the way children perceive and value themselves, and I couldn't help but wonder about the impact that that teacher's attitude was having on the young obese girl in her class.
I guess bullying can manifest in all sorts of ways, and from all sorts of people - even from those who should know better.
In The News
- Remember 'Tiny', the would-be bus driver who was denied employment by Go Wellington because of his weight?
Here's another recent case of a qualified immigrant being denied employment in New Zealand - because she's obese:
Despite this person being a qualified nurse, and despite there being a chronic shortage of registered nurses in many hospitals and community heath facilities across the country, the 51 year old was denied residency because of her weight. The woman applied to the Residence Review Board to appeal the ruling, but the Board concluded; ''While the appellant is currently healthy, the severity of her obesity meant that two medical assessors found her to be of too great a potential risk to the New Zealand health system to determine that she had an acceptable standard of health.'' It was also indicated that ''the woman would probably cost the country $25,000 over four years in health treatment''.
Just as in the case of Tiny, the would-be Wellington bus driver who was denied a job because of his weight, this case calls for considerably more clarity around the definition of ''employment discrimination'' and ''disability'', especially as the incidence of obesity continues to rise among our children and youth.
Email your comments, ideas, thoughts, opinions, and questions to email@example.com for publication in this newsletter.
You can also include any child obesity related news, topics of interest, or events that you or your agency may be involved with.
Phone (04) 9041487
Cell 027 3554553