Study shows the alarming cost of early childhood obesity
- 1 Feb 2017
Australian parents have access to a "unique window of opportunity" to influence their children's behaviours that can not only bring short-term health benefits, but also affect health for the rest of their lives.
The boosts aren't just to be had on a personal level either, with new research suggesting a change in approach could have a significant positive impact on the costs passed on to the taxpayer through the public health system.
New research published on Monday in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health estimates the direct public health burden attributed to early childhood obesity to be worth as much as $17 million annually.One in five Australian children are overweight or obese by the time they start school, with about 5 per cent of children aged between two and four years classified as obese.
Vicki Brown, a researcher at the Centre for Research Excellence in Obesity Policy at Deakin University, suggests that if parents knew how much of an impact can be made during this time, so much benefit could be gained.
"One in five Australian children are obese before they start school - that number just speaks for itself, that we're not doing enough," she said.
"The research suggests there is an immediate benefit in trying to reduce this rate of obesity in young children, but we also know there are many long-term health benefits of reducing risk of conditions like diabetes, heart conditions, stroke and all those other conditions that we know can happen later in life - it's really twofold, the benefit there."
Ms Brown highlights the "unique window of opportunity" afforded to parents during early childhood, and how much of an impact is on offer.
"I think its a really important time - it's one when children are first experiencing their tastes of food, first experiencing their attitude toward physical activity - they're learning so much during this time that I think it does present this unique opportunity," she said.
"It's an important area to try and give our children the best start in life that we possibly can, [especially while] their tastes, preferences and habits are still being formed.
"Obviously it's an issue for all ages and genders, but it is really important when we are seeing such alarming statistics in young children, that we direct some resources to understanding how we can make a change."