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Child Obesity Support Programme
What's On Top
- COSPRO finally has its own website! Yay!
Thanks to webs.com! Anyway, this should be good because a lot of parents do find it quite a challenge phoning COSPRO directly. Some parents seem to consider it an "admission of guilt" to ask for support around obesity in their children. Hopefully those parents and caregivers will feel more comfortable accessing the sevice via email and the internet. Of course the new website is just as suitable for community and government agencies as it is for parents who are interested in finding out more about the programme.
I have included in the new site all the information from the COSPRO Information Pamphlet; links to community and government agencies involved with COSPRO; and all the monthly COSPRO newsletters (like this one). Just don't expect anything too flash - it's a free-of-charge website after all!
- A little more on some parents being reluctant to access a programme which aims to address obesity in their children... Believe it or not, I have to date received significantly more enquiries about the COSPRO programme from individual community and government agencies (and even a TV network) than I have from individual families!
Why is that? I have been tempted to interpret it as an indication that child obesity is more of an issue to "society" than it is to the actual parents of overweight kids themselves. But is that interpretation fair? In the November newsletter I addressed the recently researched idea / theory that many parents of obese kids may be basically unaware of the social and physiological challenges that their children may be experiencing, or of the risks associated with obesity to their children's physical / psychological health.
Anyway, despite all that, those families who have made contact with COSPRO have left me with no doubt about their personal concern and sincerity when it comes to wanting what's best for their kids. And you can't help but sympathise with their predicament when their individual situations and experiences are taken into account...
Topics Of Interest
- Have you heard about Mission-On? It's an initiative of SPARC (Sport and Recreation Council of NZ) which aims to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle among young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Mission-On seems to be heading in the right direction in that it recognises some of the core issues around demographic, socio-economic, and most especially contemporary lifestyle change with regard to the rising rates of child obesity in NZ: The lifestyles of young New Zealanders are changing, and children and young people in New Zealand currently live in an environment that has:
> more and more options for sedentary leisure activities,
> increased barriers to physical activity,
> increased availability (and promotion) of energy-dense foods.
This is reflected in negative health trends, such as:
> increasing numbers of overweight and obese children and young people
> increasing numbers of young people who are sedentary
> lower socio-economic communities having poorer nutritional intake and greater rates of obesity.
All these things are relevant to the rising rates of child obesity in Aotearoa NZ, and good on a government agency for putting them in print! But I would like to touch on the idea that some of the above issues and factors around child obesity might be seen as a direct result of government intervention - not just here in NZ, but throughout the entire Western world.
Most especially one could argue that governments have actually contributed to the ''sedentary'' lifestyle and ''increased barriers to physical activity'' for children by being overly-cautious when it comes to letting kids explore and realise their inherent need for physical risk-taking and competitive activity.
I raised this issue briefly in the November newsletter, and cited research by Prof. Michael Ungar in support of this idea:
A few months ago I attended a training programme delivered by Prof. Ungar and found his arguments convincing, but what really motivated me to address this topic was my own recent experience as an education support worker in several of NZ's primary schools. This really opened my eyes to how government policies around 'physical safety at all costs' have impacted on so many children's' ability to develop their inherent physical potential and become healthy and confident young people.
Perhaps we need to accept a broken bone or two in the schoolyard playground as the price for an otherwise confident, assertive, and physically healthy and active new generation.
In The News
- Air Canada (the national Canadian passenger carrier) has lost a court appeal to refuse obese people an extra seat on passenger flights as may be granted to "disabled" people, on the basis that obesity is not a disability. The Canadian Transportation Agency ruled that the carrier must indeed provide an extra seat to an obese passenger at no extra charge if it is required - because obesity is considered to be a "disability" in this context.
This raises an important issue for obese people of all ages (and nationalities!): Is obesity a disability? Should obese people, including children, be accorded the same regard and dispensation as people with any other form of disability?
What a profound question!
Of course, many would argue that obesity should not be considered a disability because it is supposedly "preventable", as opposed to more "recognised" disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Intellectual Disability, or any of the vast range of other genetic anomalies and syndromes that inflict many of our young people - all of which are unavoidable.
Most of us would happily accept that a child with, say, muscular dystrophy, may require an extra seat to accommodate his or her support person, and that his or her parents should not have to pay for that extra seat. But what about an obese child who is unable to support himself or herself on a flight without the assistance of a caregiver? We can go on to extend this into the community environment: Kids with "recognised" disabilities are usually given the support of a teacher aide at school, and a range of other community supports are generally supplied to such kids as of right.
That's all good, and we wouldn't want it any other way! After all, societies are judged on how well they provide for the most vulnerable of it's members - as the saying goes. But therein lies the dilemma: Should an obese child be considered "vulnerable" or "disabled"? Probably many would say 'no'.
- Overseas researchers have discovered that many obese 10-year-olds have arteries resembling those of 45 year-olds:
While the normal state of arteries in 10-year-olds has not been the subject of much previous medical research (why should it be?), this recent research indicates that such findings are of great concern and are indicative of a huge increase in arterial / cardiac disease as the current child and youth population comes of age.
Did we really need that confirmation??!!
- Recent research from Otago University suggests that ''...babies of overweight and obese mothers are predisposed to being obese themselves and developing diabetes and other related health problems such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.''
This is not about obese parents providing their kids with an unhealthy diet. It goes deeper in that it suggests there's an inherent disposition in the offspring of obese parents towards obesity in the child from birth - or even before birth.
This is linked to the idea that the "brain is designed to defend its body fat stores". So, if an unborn child is used to a high-fat environment in-utero, that child, when born, will defend its access to a high-fat diet as a preconceived / hard-wired matter of survival.
- A parent (not in the COSPRO programme) once told me she'd solved the problem of getting her overweight daughter to eat her boiled greens - She added a tablespoon of sugar to the pot!!
For me, all that did was highlight the contemporary belief that many parents of overweight kids still don't have a sound understanding of the dynamics around obesity in their children. With respect to that parent, I wouldn't be surprised if her idea of a healthy family activity was watching a DVD while munching on a big bowl of potato chips.
I don't mean to sound flippant or demeaning, but this is the reality for many families. I guess in a way it summarises much of what this whole newsletter has been about: The denial and / or lack of knowledge at many levels around the real life causes and precursors of obesity in our kids.
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.