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Families need more help to tackle obesity 'time-bomb'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard
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23rd October 2013 - Local authorities and health professionals must do more to help tackle the " obesity time-bomb" among children and young people, says the organisation that sets standards of excellence in health and social care.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says difficulty accessing local support means that some families have to attempt to manage children's weight problems themselves.

The new NICE guidance says about 3 in 10 children aged 2 to 15 are either overweight or obese, which puts them at risk of developing various diseases. For instance:

  • Type 2 diabetes, which usually develops in middle-aged or older people, has become more common in children over the past decade, with youngsters as young as 7 being diagnosed with the condition
  • Obese children are at risk of asthma, as well as sleep apnoea, a condition where breathing is interrupted during sleep.
  • An estimated 4 in 5 obese teenagers will probably become obese adults, putting them at risk of serious health conditions such as coronary heart disease and some cancers

Lifestyle weight management

Today's announcement is the second time within a week that NICE has issued new guidance on weight management. Last week it said GPs and other health workers in England would be given training on how to talk to patients about being overweight or obese.

The latest guidance, specifically tailored around children and adolescents, says that parents need more help recognising when their child is overweight or obese and an explanation of the benefits of facing up to the problem.

It also details the type of lifestyle weight management programmes that health commissioners, including local authorities, should be drawing up for their local area. It says these should be designed by experts with a good understanding of weight management in children and young people, such as state-registered dietitians, physical activity specialists and paediatricians.

The main focus of lifestyle weight management programmes should be to encourage long-term changes in behaviour. Among other areas that should be focused on are:

  • Encouraging all family members to eat healthily and to be physically active, regardless of their weight
  • Drawing up individual action plans that are appropriate for the child or young person’s age, gender, ethnicity, cultural background, economic and family circumstances
  • Teaching people how to read nutritional labelling on food packets and how to cook on a budget
  • Finding ways to become more active and build exercise into daily life

'Serious and growing concern'

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE says in a statement: "Parents should not have to face the challenge of obesity on their own. Obesity in children and young people is a serious and growing concern.

"We are recommending family-based lifestyle programmes are provided which give tailored advice. These programmes will also support parents to identify changes that can be done at home to tackle obesity - and maintained over the long-term. Many of them are things we should all be doing anyway, including healthy eating, getting the whole family to be more active and reducing the amount of time spent watching TV and playing computer games.

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