As a grandparent who works with so many parents and families, I’m always very conscious that the world our children live in can be a very challenging one. As a society, we are constantly giving ourselves a pat on the back because we believe that our standard of living and our children’s health and wellbeing are so much better than they used to be a few decades ago. To be honest, I’m really not too sure about this.
I don’t want to make this blog about statistics, but here are a few that will make you aware, to set the platform for the debate. In my view, it seems that too many politicians are very smug, happy and content with the state of our children’s health and the lifestyles they are leading. Some seem to be at best unaware of ‘real life’, and at worst, happy to brush this very important subject under the rug, waiting for someone else to clean the mess up.
How we currently measure up
In the UK, as one of the most advanced and richest countries in the world we rank a mind blowing 27th out of 28 countries studied in a 2015 report led by Harvard analysts. It’s incredibly disappointing that we are ranking so low at 27th – and it gets worse. Frighteningly, 23% of children under the age of five are either overweight, or obese. Putting this into perspective, Kazakhstan, has just 0.6%, Czech Republic has 5.5% and Belgium 7%.
I, along with many others who work with children, believe this is one of the biggest issues we are facing here in the UK, moving into the next decade and even beyond. The findings recorded by US analysts in a ‘social progress index’ suggest that economic recovery has done little to ease longstanding problems that blight the lives of millions.
I’ve heard the phrase ‘ticking time bomb’ used to describe the problems we are facing, and I think this represents our situation perfectly, because as a collective of parents, grandparents, institutions, authorities in this subject and politicians, if we ignore it, it will simply cause a massive health explosion in the future which involves our children and grandchildren.
We all have choices; we can all control our destiny and the direction we move in, if we stop to think about the consequences. I write this blog as part of a massive army of professionals and parents who are passionate about changing the situation for today’s kids.
I don’t want to make this all negative – I’ve seen some real positives coming from the work I do professionally, and through our charity The Elena Baltacha Foundation. I do need to highlight the other dark shadow which is slowly moving above us and one that works hand in hand with the obesity issue, though.
Body image and obesity
Many research studies show that a higher percentage of young children are now obese, as opposed to those who are not, and face extra challenges with body shape dissatisfaction. Unsurprisingly, research shows that girls are more affected by body image problems than boys.
It’s clear to me that we don’t just have one time bomb coming our way in the future, but two, physical and psychological. I find this worrying.
There are some very powerful commercial entities in the food services and product markets that don’t help the situation, and, in my opinion, there needs to be dramatic changes from a legal perspective, but as families and professionals we do have the power to focus on the areas we can control.
Plans for collaboration
I’m excited to announce that I’m working on a national programme that involves a network of 600 schools throughout the UK, delivering fitness, nutrition and lifestyle training along with information to pupils, and reaching out to help parents support their children. This is our way of working hard to create solutions to the problems that face us; it’s not good enough highlighting the problems and listing statistics. I want to make a difference – have a positive effect on the lifestyles our children will experience now and moving into the future.
We will be launching this national programme very shortly, so keep an eye on the blog and follow our lively Facebook page for more updates. in the meantime, below are some tips and strategies which I hope will help:
- As family members, we all need to try and set a good example in as many areas of healthy living as possible.
- Address the quantity and quality of the food consumed by your children.
- Focus on the amount of sport and physical activity your child is involved in.
- Be aware the lifestyle issues that are important to young children as they are growing.
Through my professional capacity and my role within the Elena Baltacha Foundation, I will be working hard to make this information accessible to as many pupils and parents as possible.
Nino Severino – Learn Play Grow Founder