There’s nothing simple about the debate around children’s nutrition and just what parents should be concentrating on to ensure they are well and healthily fed.
Obesity of course remains the buzz word when experts look at the eating habits of our children – not just in the UK, but across the western world.
However, a number of specialists are now arguing that the flip-side to that particular coin also shouldn’t be ignored – that of malnutrition in the West.
Oober Kids Republic looks at both sides of the argument.
According to public health consultant, Rachel Wood, Obesity in Scotland’s primary one pupils has remained at “worryingly” high levels for more than a decade.
New figures for 2011-12 suggest about 15 percent of children in this age group were clinically overweight, or obese, during this period. And these figures have remained at around the same level since 2000, she says.
“We are talking about a threshold where the weight will have impact on children’s life and future health,” Dr. Wood added. The report stated that childhood obesity can lead to health problems in later life, including heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and [the] increased risk of certain cancers.
However Dr. Wood has highlighted a slight positive, in that the big increases in obesity seen in the 1990s have in fact stabilised. But overall she argues, they have stabilised at too high a level.
A total of 52,139 children of primary one age were weighed and measured for this study of body mass index statistics. And Wood says the research suggests that, while diet has improved, children were still consuming too much sugar and saturated fat over this period.
Statistics for this research showed 14.9 percent of the age group were either overweight, obese or severely obese.
The data also suggested children in deprived areas were far more likely to be overweight or obese. In the least deprived areas about 81 percent of children were classified as of a healthy weight, while, in the most deprived areas, 74 percent were classified as a healthy weight.
Dr. Wood argues that these figures show inequality was “quite marked”, and determined that it is likely to widen further, as the health and diet of children in more affluent areas gradually improves.
The report also revealed a consistent difference in obesity levels between genders, with boys more likely to be clinically overweight, or indeed underweight, than girls.
This is the first time data for the percentage of children who are underweight was included in this particular study.
According to figures, Lanarkshire had the highest number of children at risk of being underweight, at about 3.4 percent of primary one pupils, compared with an average of around 1.3 percent.
It’s significant that the Scottish report included figures on underweight children for the first time. Particularly in light of recent comments from a group of researchers who claim, the issue of underweight school children is being missed because of an “obsession” with tackling obesity.
An Essex University study, presented at the European Congress on Obesity and involving 10,000 children aged nine to 16 – from the east of England – found one in 17 was too thin.
The height, weight, age and gender of the pupils were used to work out how many were too thin.
Researcher Dr. Gavin Sandercock warns that weighing too little is even more damaging to health than weighing too much.
President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr. Hilary Cass said: If we can get our children eating, choosing and ultimately cooking nutritious food, then we have a much better chance of preventing all sorts of dietary related problems – whether that’s being over or underweight.”
Oober Kids Republic recognises the importance of children’s affinity both with different healthy foods and how to cook those foods.
The children’s community is currently preparing for the publication of “Pocket Money Cookery’ – a book which will encourage children to become ‘the Chef in the kitchen’ as they prepare value for money, nutritionally balanced Mediterranean recipes, and learn facts on the history of different foods.
Dr. Cass added: Where children are severely underweight it’s often due to an underlying illness, for which they’ll need specialist medical help”.
Meanwhile, the Essex research showed 6 percent of all children in the study were underweight and that this was more common in girls (6.4 percent) than in boys (5.5 percent) from the 6 percent.
It also showed there were large differences between ethnic groups: children from Asian backgrounds had the highest prevalence of being underweight at 8.7 percent of that group.
This level of malnutrition for all the underweight children identified in the study can lead to a lack of energy, weakened immune systems and, in the case of girls, delayed periods.
Scientists have stated that the problem of underweight children, “may be more prevalent than we thought in the UK”. They argue that the fear of becoming obese, rising food prices, poor diets and a lack of muscle from low levels of exercise may all be playing a role.
Scottish Sport Minister Shona Robison said: “A key focus of our action to cut obesity is to focus on early years, where evidence suggests the greatest impact can be made”.
She added: “We are supporting child healthy weight interventions and are increasing opportunities for children to get involved in sport and physical activity, through active schools and our target of all primary children having two hours of PE lessons a week.”
Figures from 2012 showed 84 percent of primary schools provided two hours of PE per week to all pupils.
The scientists have also made the controversial statement: “ … it is now accepted that (being) underweight may pose a much greater risk to health”, than obesity.
Dr. Sandercock argues further that attention has “absolutely” swung too far towards tackling obesity, and warns children who are underweight “could be being missed”.
He has called for better training for GPs, in order to spot the problem and the development of new ways to help parents.
University College London academics interviewed paediatricians at 177 hospitals in England and Wales and found a lack of knowledge about the warning signs of children being underweight, according to research carried out earlier this year.
The research also determined that doctors may be missing the problem.
The Royal College, meanwhile, has developed growth charts for children between two and 18, which helps doctors tell if a child has a problem.
If you would like to support the publication of ’Pocket Money Cookery’ please visit the Oober Kids KickStarter project at:
Written by Ingrid Smith 20 May 2013
PLANNING THE ‘CORE’, THE UK’S NEW KNOWLEDGE MAP FOR SCHOOLS
A boost to Grammar, Mathematic & Science emerges as key points in the Government’s new plan
The British government is poised to reform its education system, creating a slimmed down curriculum with a ‘core’ of subjects, including English grammar and syntax, it emerged last week in the Queen’s Speech.
The roll call of changes, which also elevate Mathematics and Science to ‘core subject’ status, introduces bonus points for correct spelling in exams and the study of a foreign language in latter primary school years.
In the speech, delivered by the head of state but prepared by the government to set out the bills to be discussed in Parliament over the next year, it also emerged that the new National Curriculum will come into force from 2014 – but will only apply to state-funded schools, academies.
Correct spelling, punctuation and grammar bonus points will, once the legislation is introduced actually affect exams in English Literature, Geography, History and Religious Studies.
While not the most talked-about aspect of the Queen’s Speech, the planned reforms – if passed – are likely to cast a long shadow on the way British children approach learning.
Learn today, cash in tomorrow
The changes also come at a time when the performance gap – between the state school system’s ability to prepare children for adulthood and to develop their skills for jobs’ market or to create wealth – compared to the learning experience offered to public school pupils – continues to come under scrutiny and to face criticism.
The proposed legislation will require over half a million 11-year-olds to sit a special test on spelling, punctuation and grammar, as almost a quarter of primary school leavers struggle to spell common words such as ‘necessary’ or ‘separate’ – or are aware of how to use the proverbial apostrophe!
Those who support the proposal also support the research that states a good command of English, and the rules of grammar, doesn’t just improve a child’s communication skills but also seems to offer the potential for greater success in the future.
Data from the National Child Development Study – a study of a sample of over 17,000 people in England, Scotland, and Wales over a 50 year period from 1958 – led researchers to conclude that children with good Mathematics and reading skills do better in life.
The researchers stated that pupils who showed confidence in reading and mathematics by the age of seven years old went on to secure well-paid jobs when they grew up – regardless of their social background, or whether they attended state or private education.
They observed that an improvement up by one reading level at age seven could result in a £5,000 increase in income at the age of 42, relative to others who did not develop in this way.
Based on this research the message seems compelling – ‘get kids reading as early as possible in a way that they find accessible’.
Of course, grammar precision can be a challenge in these times fast social –networking communication and short-concentration-spans among, but this hasn’t diminished the enthusiasm of high-profile vocal supporters or opposing voices in the ‘good grammar’ discussion.
Education Secretary Michael Gove vs. ‘Secret Parent’ columnist, and children’s literature author, Michael Rosen are livening up the debate, trading verbal blows on the merit (or otherwise) of tests and the rights and wrongs of grammar.
Either way, it can only be encouraging that this grammar debate is finally making the headlines.
Meanwhile, OoberKidsRepublic looks forward to a widening of that debate, with more comments on the ‘fewer vs less’ debacle and so much more!
Last, but not least, OoberKidsRepublic is also looking forward to the happy time when a bilingual (why not a polyglot?) child is not just a common concept in Dutch, German or Scandinavian school, but proves to be a widespread and unsurprising reality in the UK too.
Exposing children to a new language does not just involve testing them (look away Michael Rosen) about new grammar rules, it also holds the potential to free them of insularity. It demonstrates that we all can have a role to play, however small, on a global scale – not just at home.
It becomes more and more apparent that the world does not have to speak English, but we still need to understand the world.
When children learn simple sentences such as ‘Wie geht’s?’ or ‘A bientot’ or ‘Arrivederci’ or ‘Tasharafna’, they acknowledge there is much to be explored, understood, debated; doubted, loved and lived in the world. Concept s I’m told, that are the beginning of a solid education.
If you have any questions or would like to pose supportive or counter point please feel free to comment here or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Written by Cecilia Valente, edited by Ingrid Smith
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