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Parents and schools, major factors in China obesity boom

Childhood obesity is widely recognised as a major contributor towards cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, sleep disorders, and psychological and social problems. The China National Nutrition and Health survey in 2002 revealed that the prevalence of overweight individuals has increased overall by 39% in the past ten years.

In Xi'an City, where the new study was conducted, 20% of the adolescents were found to be overweight, a rate similar to that observed in many western countries. In a recent report in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found the following factors were significantly associated with overweight and obesity in children included:

  • living in urban districts
  • limited use of sports facilities in schools
  • wealthier households
  • having an obese/overweight parent
  • having soft drink >4 times a week and not being fussy about foods.

Co-author of the research, Dr Ming Li, Research Fellow, at The George Institute for International Health in Sydney, explained that these risk factors should guide the future development of evidence-based and cost-effective strategies to tackle this increasing public health problem in China. Dr Li said that "Predictors of excess weight and obesity are widely acknowledged as heredity, lifestyle and environmental factors. However, these factors need to be viewed more closely, as they are greatly influenced by parents in a family, teachers at school, which are embedded in a community, and social context."

"Strategies that target socio-economic and behavioural factors alone do not seem to be effective in the long-term and are simply not sufficient. A stronger focus on community, school and household environments is vital to reduce the growing obesity epidemic. This is particularly important for a society that is undergoing such a massive nutritional transition," she noted.

The published research recommends that obesity
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Contact: Paul Davies
pdavies@george.org.au
61-299-934-510
Research Australia
20-May-2007


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