Overweight and obesity in children have developed into a major public health issue in recent decades. The latest edition of Public Health Research & Practice(PHRP), a journal of the Sax Institute, explores a range of topics on this theme, from obesity prevention policies and support services for children affected by overweight and obesity to the use of nutritional rating labels in supermarkets.
In an editorial, co-Guest Editors Dr Jo Mitchell, Executive Director of the Centre for Population Health at the NSW Ministry of Health, and Professor Louise Baur AM, Head of Child and Adolescent Health at the Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, argue that childhood overweight and obesity is a complex issue exacerbated by our “obesogenic” environment.
Although there is consistent agreement over what policy actions are needed, Australia’s approach has so far been “fragmented, narrow and underpowered”, they write.
A research article in this issue looks at how to keep young children physically active in the home environment. Data from nearly 1600 Perth-based preschoolers show each additional piece of fixed play equipment in the backyard – such as playhouses, sandboxes or trampolines – is associated with 5 extra minutes of outdoor playtime per day. Backyard size did not seem to affect playtime duration.
Two papers in this issue take differing views on the Health Star Rating system – the voluntary front-of-pack information panels that attempt to summarise the nutritional value of packaged foods.
One of these articles argues that the system misrepresents nutrition science, contradicts Australian Dietary Guidelines and promotes foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. The other paper takes a different view, claiming that Australians are changing their long-term behaviour and making healthier choices at the supermarket, thanks to the system.
Other articles find that:
- Rates of childhood obesity are appearing to plateau in some high-income countries, including Australia, but socioeconomic inequalities in relation to childhood obesity are widening.
- Health services should use growth assessments to routinely identify and manage children who are above healthy weight – just as they routinely identify and manage hypertension in older patients.
- The most cost-effective strategies to combat childhood overweight and obesity are the most vigorously opposed by the food industry and have not been fully implemented in any country.
PHRP is Australia’s first online-only open access peer-reviewed public health journal, with a strong focus on connecting research, policy and practice.
Researchers are welcome to submit manuscripts and encourage their colleagues to submit. You can also subscribe to receive quarterly e-alerts when the journal is published, make suggestions about themes or topics for future issues, and follow us on Twitter @phrpjournal PCA 20103