Obesity is a growing problem, for children as well as for adults. In the UK, there is a concern about the rates of childhood obesity. Public health officials there have noted that the number of children who are classified as “severely obese” in their last year of primary school has jumped by 60% compared to the number of children in their first year of primary school. While the number of obese adults has remained mostly steady at about 26% since 2010, an increase is seen in children. In the first year of school, prevalence of obesity is 1 in 10 children, but by the last year of primary school, that number is about 1 in 6 children, and this is prompting some in the healthcare profession to ask if the government should be stepping in to curb obesity rates since overall, more than half of Britain’s children are overweight or obese.
Is it a matter for parents and their health care providers to deal with or should the government be more involved? In the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam, childhood obesity was dealt with by schools that only allowed milk or tap water to be brought to school. Birthday celebrations in school classrooms were also nixed. The city no longer provides sponsorship of events by companies like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, and public service events like cooking classes and outdoor fitness activities are being rolled out by city offices. Parents are offered counseling during pregnancy, and there are programs during a child’s first 1,000 days of life that address healthy eating habits. BMI and weight are monitored yearly in schools. While involving the government in family health decisions is a touchy subject, many feel that the efforts are paying off. The UK is considering some government measures aimed at reducing rates of childhood obesity, in hopes of having some of the success seen by Dutch families.