Child stretching © World Obesity
Coordinated by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre the study finds children whose parents did not complete high school and who live with social disadvantage, were more likely to be affected by overweight or obesity in mid-adolescence. High school completion is a strong indicator of socio-economic status.
These factors were ‘on ramps’ which flow down to influence the body mass index (BMI) of parents, in turn providing immediate lifestyle impacts (diet, sedentary time) on a child’s risk of developing obesity.
Paediatrician Professor Louise Baur of the University of Sydney said the research explains why most current public health policies to prevent childhood obesity have had limited success.
“We tend to ignore the root causes of childhood obesity which include social disadvantage, and of course, this is not something parents or children choose for themselves,” said Professor Baur, co-author from the University’s Charles Perkins Centre.
“While healthy eating and activity interventions are important, the solutions lie not just in the domain of health departments. We need to see many government departments working together to consider how to make structural changes to reduce social inequality if we want to change Australia’s current trajectory.”
Other interesting findings from the research include how different drivers of obesity play out at different life stages, particularly the influence of free time activity after the age of eight.
There are also different influences on how free time is spent and influenced for boys versus girls. For boys, more electronic gaming leads to less active free time. For girls, better sleep quality leads to longer sleep time and more active free time.