It’s now generally accepted that obesity is a growing public health problem in the developed world, with an estimated 500 million adults worldwide classed as obese. Yet it is not only adults that we should be worried about, as a new generation of children are growing up in a world of excess. A new report has found that a shocking one in three children in Europe between the ages of six and nine are classed as either overweight or obese.
Not only that, but it warns that the number of children worldwide under five years of age who are overweight will increase from 41 million to 70 million in just under a decade. In light of this growing problem, the researchers from United European Gastroenterology are calling for more resources to be allocated to tackle the ticking time bomb of pediatric health, which is only set to get worse and in the long run cost more to solve.
Based on data taken from 46 countries in Europe, they found that the increase in obesity was being matched by an increase in childhood onset of inflammatory bowel disease, which now accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of all cases. The cost of treating obesity and related diseases is already thought to account for a tenth of all healthcare spending across Europe, and as a larger and larger portion of the younger generations become overweight, more will have to be allocated unless it can be prevented.
“Across Europe we have leading pediatric experts and many centers of excellence,” explains Professor Michael Manns, the president of United European Gastroenterology, in a statement. “However, these are not widespread and currently cannot meet the needs of children throughout the continent. This has an impact on not just individuals and their families but on society and wider health service provision.”
The report highlights that the current way of treating children for this disease, which is usually based on those treatments developed for adults, is simply inadequate. They note that those making the decisions on how to deal with the situation need to be aware of the fact that children often have complex physical, psychological, and social needs, which are best met by trained pediatric specialists, and that there simply aren’t enough trained to treat all the children in need.
“Priorities need to change quickly to appreciate the specific issues of pediatric digestive provision and ensure greater investment into prevention, cost-effective diagnostic measures and harmonized training,” says Professor Berthold Koletzko, a pediatric gastrointestinal specialist and president of the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. The report concludes that simply more expertise, more investment, and more care is needed to treat these children and prevent it from becoming a major problem in the future.