OKkio alla SALUTE: decreases in child obesity, but still a serious situation

News from the Ministry of Health – Italy

From 2008 to present the number of overweight and obese children aged 8-9 years has slightly decreased, but Italy remains at the top in Europe for weight excess in children. Among children, some wrong food habits and sedentary lifestyles are still too common, even though children doing physical activities have slightly increased.

This is the picture taken in 2012 by the surveillance system “Okkio alla SALUTE”, promoted by the Ministry of Health within the strategic program “Guadagnare salute – Rendere facili le scelte salutari” (Gaining health – Facilitating healthy choices). The detection involved 46.492 children in 2.623 third grades.

The 2012 data show that 22,1% of children aged 8-9 are overweight when in 2008/09 they were 23,2% (-1,1%), and that 10,2% are obese while in 2008/09 they were 12% (- 1,8%). Overall, then, in 2012 the 32,3% of third grade children is in a condition of weight excess (-2,9% compared to the first detection).

The highest percentages about overweight and obesity were collected in the Central and Southern regions: in Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Puglia e Basilicata the weight excess affects over 40% of the sample, while in Sardegna, Valle d’Aosta e Trentino-Alto Adige the weight excess affects less than 25%.

Food education keeps being fundamental: among children there are still too many habits that can lead to weight increase, especially when concomitant. Particularly, 9% of children skip breakfast and 31% have a non-proper breakfast (that is unbalanced in terms of carbohydrates and proteins); 67% have a too heavy mid-morning snack; 21% of parents declare that their children don’t eat daily fruits and/or vegetables; 43% consume regularly sweetened and/or carbonated drinks.

Data about physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles show a small improvement, though remaining high: 16% of children practice a sport just for an hour a week or less, compared to 25% in 2008/09; 17% didn’t do any physical activity the day before the investigation (in 2008/09 it was 26%); 42% have a TV in their bedroom (-6%), 36% watch TV  and/or play with video-games for more than 2 hours a day (-11%) and just one in four children goes to school on foot or by bike.

These findings underline the need to invest even more in prevention to reduce inequality, and health and social costs.

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