Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist January 2012 Contents Australian Pharmacist January 2012 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd. 69
Evidence shows how
childhood obesity can be
Targeting children aged six to 12 with
school-based programs that encourage
healthy eating, physical activity and
positive attitudes to body image are
among a range of interventions that can
help reduce levels of obesity, according to
a new review of the evidence published in
The Cochrane Library.
While some people argue against taking
action because they worry that the action
could itself do harm, evidence of harm
due to the interventions themselves was
not found across the studies.
The lead researcher, Professor Elizabeth
Waters, who works at the McCaughey
Centre at the University of Melbourne,
said 'There is now compelling evidence
that strategies can be implemented
to halt the growing rates of obesity in
children. We know that doing nothing is
likely to result in increases of overweight
and obesity, particularly in countries
where the prevalence continues to rise.'
Childhood obesity can cause social,
psychological and health problems, and
is linked to obesity later in life and poor
An international team of researchers has
updated a previous Cochrane Review by
searching for new evidence from existing
studies to see which forms of intervention
could have maximum effect in helping
children to avoid becoming obese. They
found that since 2005 the number of trials
had increased from 22 to 55. With this
increased pool of information they could
make a more thorough assessment of the
various approaches people had taken.
Becoming obese is strongly linked to
inappropriate nutrition and low levels of
physical activity, so unsurprisingly many
of the programmes aimed to improve
either or both of these behaviours.
The studies varied in terms of what
programs they evaluated for preventing
obesity and the degree of benefit
they identified. Nevertheless, taken
together the review indicates that the
interventions had a positive impact on
'Our findings show that obesity
prevention is worth investing in. Given
the range of programs included in this
review, it is hard to say exactly which
components are the best, but we think
the strategies to focus on are those that
seek to change environments, rather
than just the behaviour of individuals,'
Prof. Waters said.
The evidence identifies a number of
promising policies and strategies that
could be considered for implementation.
Including healthy eating, physical
activity and body image in school
• Increasing the number of
opportunities for physical activity
and the development of fundamental
movement skills during the
• Improving the nutritional quality of
food supplied in schools.
• Creating environments and cultural
practices within schools that support
children eating healthier foods and
being active throughout each day.
• Professional development and
capacity building activities which help
to support teachers and other staff
as they implement health promotion
strategies and activities.
• Giving more attention to parent
support and home activities that
encourage children to be more active,
eat more nutritious foods and spend
less time in screen-based activities.
'Research that aims to reduce childhood
obesity must now concentrate on
finding ways of embedding effective
interventions in health, education and
care systems, so that we can make
population-wide, long term impacts on
the levels of obesity,' said Profe.Waters.
Full citation: Waters E, de Silva-
Sanigorski A, Hall BJ, Brown T, et al.
Interventions for preventing obesity
in children. Cochrane Database of
Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 12. Art.
No.: CD001871. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.
URL Upon publication: http://doi.wiley.
Signs of hope for young
Australians with cancer
While cancer in adolescents and young
adults remains a concern, outcomes
for young people are largely positive,
according to the Australian Institute
of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report,
Cancer in adolescents and young adults
in Australia, which was released in
The Report is the first to present a
national, comprehensive picture of cancer
in young people aged 15--29. It found that
cancer in adolescents and young adults
accounted for 1.7% of all cancer cases
diagnosed in Australia, with melanoma
the most common cancer diagnosed in
this age group.
AIHW spokesperson Chris Sturrock
said, 'Almost 8,800 new cases of cancer
(excluding basal and squamous cell
carcinomas of the skin) were diagnosed
in people aged 15--29 between 2003
and 2007. The good news is that the
death rate from cancer in those aged
15--29 decreased by almost 2% per year
between 1983 and 2007.'
There were just over 1,000 cancer deaths
in adolescents and young adults between
2003 and 2007, making up 9% of all
deaths in this age group, with the most
common cause of cancer death being
'Survival for young people with cancer
is also quite high and has improved,' Ms
In the period 2004--2010, adolescents and
young adults with cancer, compared with
those in the general population, were
88% as likely to be alive five years after
diagnosis. However, cancer outcomes for
adolescents and young adults did vary for
different population groups.
'In the period 2003--2007, those living
outside Major cities were more likely to
be diagnosed with and to die from cancer
than their counterparts in Major cities,' Ms
In the period 2004--2010, survival from
all cancers combined was higher for
15--29-year-olds living in areas of the
highest socioeconomic status than for
those in the lowest.
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