Children's weight is a big problem

THE number of overweight young Australians is on the rise.

That's the basic finding of a recent study by the Ingham Institute of Applied Medical Research.

Associate professor Jack Chen was part of the national childhood-obesity study. He said the results showed a worrying trend towards childhood obesity.

"Overweight and obese children are a huge health concern," he said.

"Between the ages of 2 and 16 around 25 per cent of children are overweight or obese.

"The study found in children aged between 4 and 10 the rates of obesity had increased from 21 to 28 per cent.

"There was a big increase in obesity rates in children aged between 6 and 8 while children between 4 and six were stable."

Dr Chen said the trend was common among children from indigenous or non-English-speaking backgrounds.

"Children from non-English-speaking backgrounds had a high rate of obesity compared to children from English-speaking backgrounds," he said.

"Kids from Pacific Islander, Arabic or Middle Eastern and non-English-speaking backgrounds were more likely to be overweight or obese. Indigenous children in the age group of 4 to 10 had the highest rates of being overweight or obese, with girls having a higher rate than boys."

Dr Chen said there were many factors likely to contribute to rising levels of childhood obesity. He said there was a need for more education and early intervention.

"A lot of children are already overweight or obese and a lot of parents think their children's weight is all right," he said.

"Contributing factors to these rates can include changes in the family environment, socio-economic environment reasons, cultural reasons, less physical activity in children, watching more television and using more technology.

"There's a great urgency to find out what we should do."

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