Childhood obesity

New strategies to prevent obesity and sedentary lifestyles

Recent studies have shown that overweight and obesity during childhood and adolescence have a negative impact on the functioning of the internal walls of the arteries, paving the way to the development of an arteriosclerotic disease from an increasingly early age.

Obesity threatens a healthy childhood.
Obesity threatens a healthy childhood.

They also prove that, regardless of age, race and sex, child and adolescent obesity affects the vascular endothelial functions. "The evidence that the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases that reveal themselves in adulthood begin in childhood or adolescence makes it imperative that prevention strategies be planned from a very early age," said Dr Héctor Trungelliti, President of the Paediatric Cardiology Committee of the Argentine Federation of Cardiology (FAC), speaking this May at the World congress of Cardiology, held in Buenos Aires. "These risk factors, such as overweight and obesity, as well as a sedentary lifestyle, nicotine addiction, dyslipidemias, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, share a common element that cannot be denied: the adoption of poor health-related habits characteristic of western societies."

Released at the congress were the preliminary results of the Educando (Educating) Plan, a project, developed by the Argentine Federation/Foundation of Cardiology, and launched in 2001. The plan aims to prevent cardiovascular disease from childhood, and is targeted at primary school teachers, to encourage healthier lifestyles by providing information about the disease and prevention.  "Its clear and didactic message can be easily communicated to children," explained Dr Rodolfo La Greca, co-director of the plan.

Since the programme began in 2001, around 8,000 primary school teachers, in charge of about 100,000 children between four and five years old, have received training. "We will try to convey the Argentine experience because, due to its characteristics the Educando plan is unique as regards the centralised and unified management of the plan, addressed to teachers and not directly to children, who sometimes do not receive the message properly," Dr La Greca pointed out, adding that teachers are the proper vectors to convey life quality concepts to children. 
The World Heart Federation in Colombia also has a project to promote healthy life habits in childhood and adolescence. 

"Healthy Habits For Life", presented through the television show Plaza Sesamo (Sesame Workshop), consists of the development of audiovisual materials that encourage pre-school children (aged between three and six years) to take regular physical activity and eat a healthy, balanced diet, and to promote the importance of instilling healthy life habits in children among their carers. Along with this the project encourages multi-sector collaboration for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, said Dr Shahyar Sheik, President of the World Heart Federation, who added that it also aims to …identify those elements of the programme that are cost- effective in order to reproduce them; and to develop an association with Plaza Sésamo that can be spread to other countries."

This project began in 2006, with the development in Colombia of audiovisual content that focuses on healthy life habits, designed to be used by health and education professionals and to enable the later evaluation of their impact on both children’s and parents’ activities. Six out of the 27 audiovisual materials initially planned have been broadcast in 2007 within the Plaza Sésamo show, which is broadcast virtually all over the American Continent through the cable TV channels Discovery Kids, TeleFutura and Televisa, and others. New episodes are being broadcast during 2008.

This article is adapted from the original press release.
Image courtesy: DAK/Wigger


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