Globalization of Childhood Obesity

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 11/10/2007 02:03:00 PM
The woeful of combination of not enough exercise and too many fattening/sugary deelites is taking its toll on the health not only of America's youth but that of the world's youth as globalization carries the Western lifestyle to parts previously unknown. McGill University in Montreal recently held a conference on global health attended by international research and food industry bigwigs. The Montreal Gazette writes about the concerns raised at the conference over the increasingly widespread phenomenon of childhood obesity. Should this phenomenon continue, the next generation of youngsters may be the first to have shorter lifespans than their parents. Scary stuff:
Childhood obesity is no longer a North American problem but is spreading to China and other countries around the world as a result of globalization, says the organizer of an international conference held in Montreal this week.

It's not just poor nutrition choices that are responsible for childhood obesity, suggested Laurette Dube, a professor of consumer psychology at McGill University. The underlying cause for much of the problem is unchecked economic expansion.

And China is an ideal example, she added. In 1985, only 5.3 per cent of Chinese boys and 3.3 per cent of girls were considered overweight or obese. By 2000, the rates had soared to 29 per cent for boys [maybe those "little emperors" aren't so "little" after all] and 17.3 per cent for girls.

"The growth in China's GDP (gross domestic product) has been paralleled by the growth in childhood obesity," Dube explained.

"We should be able to have the good side of economic growth and industrialization without having to pay the scary toll in childhood obesity."

Public health experts warn that if childhood obesity rates continue to rise, the children of tomorrow could be the first generation in history to have shorter life spans than their parents.

Obesity is already causing a wide range of complications in children. Some children as young as seven are developing cardiovascular risk factors.

Rejeanne Gougeon, an expert in obesity at the Royal Victoria Hospital, noted that a small but growing number of overweight children in Montreal are finding out they have Type II diabetes, which used to be described as adult-onset diabetes.

Dube, founding chair of the think-tank conference, said the goal is devise strategies for "health-friendly local and global food chains."

"Can we steer the wheel of the economic machine in a way that will combine health and economic progress, while preserving social and cultural traditions?" she asked. "That's the challenge."

More than 200 experts in public health, agriculture, education, management and the environment have gathered for the 2007 Health Challenge Think Tank, sponsored by McGill. The conference began Wednesday and runs until Friday.