Monday, 03 Jul 2017

Family Report: Australian parents worried about rising rate of childhood obesity

Research reveals the blame lies with them, but they say they need help to combat the problem... 

“Parents should parent,” is the take home message from a new survey on attitudes to childhood obesity. 

Almost eight out of 10 Australian parents are ‘very concerned’ or ‘concerned’ about the issue of childhood obesity, while 69 per cent of them believe it is the primary responsibility of the parent to ensure their child is at a healthy weight. 

The research, released today in the first Life Education NSW Family Report, revealed our attitudes to a number of areas affecting our children including nutrition, physical activity and screen time.

Life Education NSW CEO Kellie Sloane said the research had laid bare a number of home truths about where the responsibility for our children lies.

“There is definitely a game of finger-­-pointing going on when it comes to the issue of childhood obesity,” Ms Sloane said.

“While most Australian parents surveyed are worried about it, they are also blaming parents and in effect themselves, for the high rates of overweight and inactive children in our country.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics one in four Australian children and two thirds of parents are overweight or obese.

Surprisingly, while the Life Education Family Report research figures were high when it came to whether parents were concerned about the rate of childhood obesity, most of them were happy when it came to their own child’s eating habits.

Only 18 per cent said they were “unhappy” with their child’s eating habits and only one per cent were “very unhappy”.

The trend follows when it comes to the question of the amount of exercise or physical activity their children participate in.

“Around 34 per cent of parents say they are “very happy” and half say they are “happy” with the amount of exercise their child does,” she said. “We know nutrition and exercise are the main contributors to combating childhood obesity, yet parents seem to think they have these factors under control.”

“Given the high rates of childhood obesity, we know there must be a disconnect here between what is actually happening and what parents believe they are doing.”

One thing is certain, almost all of the parents surveyed (98 per cent) believe health education is important and are asking for more assistance in the fight against childhood obesity.

Many respondents called for action including: introducing a Sugar Tax; banning junk food advertising; making healthy food compulsory in all school canteens; make sport more affordable; and, lowering the prices of fresh food.

The research also revealed almost 70 per cent of parents are very concerned or somewhat concerned about the amount of screen time (for example playing video, computer games, TV or internet) their children are exposed to.

“This is a concern, however I believe many of us are guilty of spending too much time in front of electronic devices,” Ms Sloane says. “We are bombarded with so many options these days, whether it be social media, Netflix or surfing the web.”

“Adults and children alike would all be better off reducing their exposure to social media, internet and TV.”

Key research findings:

  • 30 per cent “very concerned” about childhood obesity while 47 per cent “concerned”.
  • 69 per cent say parents are responsible for childhood obesity; schools 5 per cent; government 2 per cent; combined schools, parents and government 25 per cent.
  • 23 per cent say they are “very happy” with their child’s eating habits; 58 per cent “happy”; 18 per cent “unhappy”; and, 1 per cent “very unhappy”.
  • 26 per cent say it is “very easy” to get their child to be physically active; 47 per cent say “easy”; 21 per cent say it is “difficult”; and 7 per cent it is “very difficult”.
  • 19 per cent are “very concerned” with the amount of screen time’ 50 per cent are “somewhat concerned”; 25 per cent are “not really concerned”; and 5 per cent are “not concerned at all”.