The News Story – Ending childhood obesity is a global challenge
“Childhood obesity is no longer the preserve of wealthy nations,” according to a Newsweek story out this week. “There are more overweight and obese children in the developing world, in terms of absolute numbers, and an upward trend is evident.”
The story comes on the heels of the final report, presented January 25, of The World Health Organization’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, established in 2014 to propose interventions to this alarming global problem. The Commission declared that “no single intervention can halt the rise of the growing obesity epidemic.” Rather, concerted government AND societal efforts are required to ensure that “children and their parents have appropriate knowledge about nutrition, have access to affordable healthy foods and participate in physical activity.”
According to Newsweek, “The report includes six sets of recommendations and also outlines the required actions from governments, international agencies and civil society, including the private sector.” But research indicates that if they really want to combat childhood obesity, “governments, international agencies and civil society” would do well to take a hard look at their cultural views and legal statutes surrounding marriage.
The New Research – Missing fathers, swelling waistlines
With good reason, public-health officials have spared no effort in combatting the epidemic in childhood obesity, typically by advocating dietary reforms. If they attend to a study recently completed in Denmark, however, they may realize that they need to direct their energies in a new way. For this new Danish study makes it quite clear that children are physiologically prone to obesity if they are born in a fatherless home.
Compared to peers whose parents were living together, children whose parents lived separately before their birth were almost twice as likely to be overweight as 9-to-11-year-old children (Odds Ratio of 1.87). The researchers test the robustness of this finding by deploying a statistical model taking into account maternal education, maternal pre-pregnancy B[ody]M[ass]I[ndex], maternal weight gain during pregnancy, maternal age at birth of child, parity, the child’s gender, and breast-feeding status. But use of this model “did not substantially change the estimates” of relative child vulnerability. The effect of parental separation stands out even more clearly when the researchers look specifically at the risk of children’s becoming so overweight that they are classified as obese: compared to peers whose parents were living together when they were born, Danish children whose parents had separated were three times as likely to be obese as 9-to-11-year-olds.