[ASC-media] International Obesity TaskForce media release

Chris Forbes-Ewan forbes-ewan at tassie.net.au
Tue May 18 20:54:39 EST 2004

Below my signature block is a media release from the International Obesity
TaskForce (IOTF) about childhood obesity.

Please refer to the website <www.iotf.org/childhood> if you have any
questions related to this (I'm only the messenger).

Chris Forbes-Ewan
19 Hedley St
Scottsdale Tas 7260

Phone: Int + 61 3 6352 2092 (03 6352 2092 within Australia)

IOTF demands action on childhood obesity crisis

New report to WHO finds overweight affects 1 in 10 children worldwide

At least 155 million school-age children worldwide are overweight or
obese, according to a major new report from the International Obesity

In a comprehensive dossier revealing how the global obesity epidemic is
affecting children, the International Obesity TaskForce says that one in
10 children is overweight, a total of 155 million. Around 30-45 million
within that figure are classified as obese -- accounting for 2-3% of the
world's children aged 5-17. A further 22 million younger children are
also affected according to previous IOTF global estimates based on WHO
data for under fives.

The report, "Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public
health"[i], was delivered to the World Health Organization on the eve of a
critical decision by government ministers in Geneva on adopting a global
strategy on diet, activity and health, and warned that childhood obesity
was increasing in both developed and developing countries, with
significantly increased risks that children may develop type 2 diabetes,
heart disease and a variety of other co-morbidities.

South Africa was an example of a developing country where the prevalence
of overweight (including obesity) was found to affect 25% of girls in the
13-19 year age range, similar to the USA average, using IOTF criteria,
although the figure for boys in South Africa was lower at 7%.

In Europe childhood obesity has increased steadily in this region with the
highest prevalence in southern European countries. In northern Europe an
overweight prevalence of 10-20% was found for children, while in
southern Europe the prevalence was 20-35%. Recent surveys found that 36%
of 9-year-olds in mainland Italy and Sicily were overweight or obese,
while in Greece the prevalence was 26% in boys and 19% in girls aged
6-17 years. In Spain, 27% of children and adolescents were affected,
while in Crete 39% of children aged 12 were found to be overweight. In the
UK the figure reached 20% of children in 1998 using the IOTF's strict
reference assessment methods[ii].

The report was prepared by a special IOTF childhood obesity working group
chaired by Professors Ricardo Uauy and Louise Baur, and coordinated by Dr
Tim Lobstein with the help of expert groups including the Federation of
International Societies for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and
Nutrition (FISPGHAN) and backed by the International Paediatrics
Association (IPA). It identifies examples of problematic social trends:

*         Increase in use of motorized transport, e.g. to school.
*         Fall in opportunities for recreational physical activity.
*         Increased sedentary recreation.
*         Multiple TV channels around the clock.
*         Greater quantities and variety of energy dense foods available.
*         Rising levels of promotion and marketing of energy-dense foods.
*         More frequent and widespread food purchasing opportunities.
*         More use of restaurants and fast food stores.
*         Larger portions of food offering better value for money.
*         Increased frequency of eating occasions.
*         Rising use of soft drinks to replace water, e.g. in schools.

The report concludes that the domination of "obesogenic" or
obesity-promoting environmental factors means that treatment is unlikely
to succeed without strategies to deal with the prevailing environment
through a broad-based, public health programme, and urges policy-makers to
develop strong policies to stem the rising problem.

It must be concluded that interventions at the family or school level
will need to be matched by changes in the social and cultural context so
that the benefits can be sustained and enhanced. Such prevention
strategies will require a co-ordinated effort between the medical
community, health administrators, teachers, par­ents, food producers and
processors, retailers and caterers, advertisers and the media, recreation
and sport planners, urban architects, city planners, politicians and
legislators, the report states.

While in some developing countries childhood obesity was most dominant in
wealthier social groups, it is also rising among the urban poor,
possibly due to their exposure to Westernized diets co­inciding with a
history of undernutrition. Children in lower-income families in
developed countries are particularly vulnerable because of poor diet and
limited opportunities for physical activity. The report found that in the
USA overweight rose twice as fast in Hispanic and African-American
pre-teenage children compared to white children during the 1990s.

Calling on the WHO to help countries to develop National Obe­sity Action
Plans with a high priority set for tackling the prevention of childhood
obesity, the report says action is needed to:

*         provide clear and consistent consumer information, e.g. on food
*         encourage food companies to provide lower energy, more nutritious
           marketed for children;
*         develop criteria for advertising that promotes healthier eating;
*         improve maternal nutrition and encourage breast-feeding of
*         design secure play facilities and safe local neighbourhoods;
*         encourage schools to enact coherent food, nutrition and physical
           activity policies;
*         encourage medical and health professionals to partic­ipate in the
           development of public health programmes.

Co-chair Prof Louise Baur, who is based at University of Sydney Department
of Paediatrics and Child Health, in Australia, commented: "Almost daily
we receive new reports of the impact of type 2 diabetes affecting younger
and younger children because of obesity. That alone should make it
imperative that all nations take urgent action to address the key issues
affecting the growth of obesity."

Prof Ricardo Uauy, from Chile, chair of public health at the London School
of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: "This report is the result of
one of the most comprehensive collaborations between experts in the
pediatric field, all seriously concerned about what is happening to
children throughout the world.

"We really cannot afford delay any longer. We need to address this
challenge with an effective global strategy on diet, activity and health.

"We must act quickly. The world's children deserve no less."


[i]  Lobstein T, Baur L, Uauy R for the IOTF Childhood Obesity Working
Group. Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public health.
Obesity Reviews 2004; 5 (Suppl 1): 4-85.

 [ii] Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH. Establishing a standard
definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international
survey. BMJ 2000; 320: 1240-1243.

The report is available upon request from
Childhood Report*
IASO International Obesity TaskForce
231 North Gower Street
London NW1 2NS

Tel +44 2076911907
Fax +44 2073876033
Email: childhood at iotf.org

*A handling charge of £10 may be required. For details see website:


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