Child obesity: a growing problem

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious health epidemics in the UK. 

With over three million children estimated to be overweight or obese, MEND and the National Obesity Forum have joined forces to launch National Childhood Obesity Week.

Running from 4 – 10 July 2011, the campaign aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of being overweight during childhood.  It was promoted through activities, encouraging more children and their families to get active together.

Obesity at a young age can lead to many physiological problems in adulthood, these include:

  • high blood pressure
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high cholesterol levels
  • asthma
  • development problems in the feet
  • liver disease
  • sleep apnoea

The Society’s Professional Practice Board (PPB) , has published a report on the many psychological problems associated with obesity, including childhood obesity. 

Dr Kairen Cullen one of the contributors to the report  reviewed the psychological issues identified in existing literature on obesity in children and young people.

Dr Cullen fully supported the campaign in July, stating:  "National Childhood Obesity Week is a welcome development in raising awareness of the social, psychological and biological complexities of childhood obesity.  Hopefully, the week will help to communicate how important it is for the diverse skills and knowledge of researchers and practitioners to be brought together to support a better understanding and more effective ways of helping individual children, their families and society as a whole."

In Dr Cullen’s review, it states that there is evidence that obese children and adolescents miss more school days than the general student population and that they have lower expectations on their academic performance. 

In her conclusion, Dr Cullen suggested that there is a clear need for recognition and full utilisation of professional psychological input with the use of multidisciplinary interventions. Such interventions should aim to create long-term behavioural change and the promotion of children’s confidence and self-esteem.

For further insight and other topics relating to obesity, download our free report: Obesity in the UK: A psychological perspective.