The University of Otago’s Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR) recently applauded the government’s newly launched health initiatives that target childhood obesity and diabetes. EDOR’s Director, Professor Jim Mann, commented in a press release, “These government plans acknowledge the principle that a two-pronged approach is necessary when dealing with diseases that have reached epidemic proportions, as is the case with obesity and diabetes. An effective strategy must target both the individuals who have already developed the disease, or are at high risk of doing so, as well as implement preventative measures in the population at large.”
This pair of health strategies covers avenues for applying obesity and diabetes treatment for individuals of all ages. Associate Professor Rachael Taylor, a researcher of childhood obesity at EDOR, in New Zealand, said the new initiatives will be highly beneficial to the alarming number of obese children who were diagnosed with the Before School Check, and is a good fit with the much broader Healthy Families program. She added, “A critical factor will be to ensure that the appropriate resources are available for effective implementation.”
EDOR researchers believe there is also a need for the government to launch initiatives that cater to pregnant women, not only to address gestational diabetes, but also because prenatal conditions can largely determine the newborn’s predisposition to obesity and diabetes.
Taylor also expressed her concern over the majority of health strategies aimed at obesity and diabetes, as these focus too much on physical activity. “Increased physical activity on its own will not reverse the obesity epidemic. However, we know that improving the food environment is essential for reducing obesity in children,” she said. “While there are some useful actions in the recently announced package, it could be argued that many of the nutrition strategies lack teeth.”
One of the steps the government can take is to regulate the advertisement of junk food toward children, and build on the existing positive food and drink restrictions in schools and hospitals. “Such policies will be far more effective in the school system — where children spend a lot of their time,” Taylor said.