Future of childhood obesity

Editor’s Note: On Nov. 15, 2012, Western News celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special edition asking 40 Western researchers to share the 40 THINGS WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEXT 40 YEARS. This is one of those entries. To view the entire anniversary issue, visit the Western News archives.

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Childhood obesity is one of the major health threats of the 21st century. Some researchers predict that its prevalence will continue to rise in the coming decades; others have suggested the rate at which it is increasing may be slowing.

If the latter is true, it is certainly no cause for celebration given nearly one third of our youth are currently overweight or obese.

In an ideal world, the next 40 years will bring less talking and more doing. In an ideal world, we will put the ‘eat less, exercise more’ mantra of the past four decades behind us and we will tackle the myriad of social, economic and environmental factors contributing to this complex disease. In an ideal world, we will work collectively toward denormalizing the unhealthy, obesogenic environment in which our children live.

In an ideal world, as far as childhood obesity is concerned, the next 40 years will look nothing like the last 40.

Shauna Burke is a Health Studies professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences.