Help to halt the rise of childhood obesity in Malta and Gozo – Readers Letter

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Help to halt the rise of childhood obesity in Malta and Gozo - Readers Letter“Obesity – We know that Malta’s children are the fattest in Europe and this means they will suffer cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, prediabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatisation and poor self-esteem in their youth, more than their peers in countries with healthier weights.

Their futures hold increased risks for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Who cares? What is so frustrating is that while we can do something about it, not enough changes are being made.

Gozo is such a small place; it should be possible to make changes quickly! Schools need to set the example. I don’t know if people are aware that much of the fundraising in schools involves selling junk food to kids: pastizzi and sausage rolls on tombla days, pizza day, popcorn day, bake sales, etc.

On a personal note, I have been volunteering in a Government school in Gozo, serving on the school council for several years. I have three children of my own. For the previous two years I volunteered teaching an extra P.E lesson each week for each class. I did this because I know exercise is important and kids here don’t get enough.

I am frustrated by the total lack of understanding when it comes to encouraging kids to be healthy. Concerns over liability overrule healthy choices to take students for a walk. Buses are used in situations where kids could go on foot- getting exercise, reducing pollution and saving money.

There are risks in life but a balanced approach can be taken: ask parents to chaperon on walks (everyone needs exercise, not just kids!). Long term it isn’t really “safer” to give kids snacks full of saturated fat and put them on a bus when they could walk.

What could schools do to help kids be healthier? I have heard it takes 28 days to stop or start a habit. Have a contest with a prize for the kid in each class who walks or rides their bike to school the most days in a month. Another contest could be for bringing a fruit or vegetable in their lunch (and eating it!) the most days in a month.

Have healthier activities! Why not have fund-raising activities that are fun and active or creative, that don’t involve food? Uniform-free days are good, crazy hat days, pyjama day, trekking day, etc.

So, schools need to do their part to encourage students to make healthy choices. As a community we can do things together- exercising and being outdoors. Families need to spend more time with their kids and friends enjoying the outdoors together.”

Louis Debattista,

Gozo Greyhounds Sports Club.

Photograph: Children taking healthy exercise on Gozo hike

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    8 Responses

    1. alain says:

      exercices are excellent but also pay attention at the food that we eat

      congratulations Louis

    2. Rocks! says:

      Thank you I hope the schools, the education Department, or the heath department and maybe they can put a stop to it. The schools are sending a wrong massage when it comes to heath for this kids all this junk food.

    3. Sarah Springham says:

      I think the construction of a Lido and indoor swimming pool in Gozo would be a good idea. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, especially for the overweight, as water supports the body and reduces strain on muscles and joints. A lot of people don’t like swimming in the sea. The site of the old dairy at the edge of the Industrial Estate in Xewkija/Rabat would seem a perfect location.

      • Carmel says:

        Ms Springham you’re right Gozo still lacks public aquatic sports facilities and that the lack of development of sports facilities in Gozo is another sign that we Gozitans are not treated as equals to our Maltese counterparts.
        Two national swimming pools already exists in Malta, together with another two covered and heated pools; hence I believe that Gozitans deserve an indoor heated pool. It would be ideal if the pool and aquatic sports facilities form part of the Gozo College in Victoria.
        Gozo deserves the construction and development of a common Olympic standard heated pool, to be used both in winter and summer.

        Such pool should also be available to all clubs, schools the general public and as a tourist facility.

    4. Marie Dean says:

      I have taught for years and I noticed as a tourist this year the obesity in young children in both Gozo and Malta. I see children on the buses with food and snacks and walking around with food. The fast food culture does not help. Old-fashioned sit-down meals with parents and not eating between meals, called “grazing” helps. But, children should be swimming, taking aerobics and walking. As a retired person, I walk from 3-6 miles per day and there is no reason why children cannot walk with their parents daily.

    5. Mick C says:

      ‘Grazing’ can actually be a healthy lifestyle option.
      There is every reason as to why ‘children cannot walk with their parents daily’ and that is because the parents do not walk any distance if they can avoid it. I have seen some cross one side of a square to another – in a car!

      • Marie Dean says:

        Sad about the cars, Mick, but grazing also destroys family life, the sit-down family dinner, which in all cultures, has been a course of unity in society.

    6. Mick C says:

      In all cultures? There are also alternative activities to bring about cohesion within families. Life styles change and many changes are forced upon people due to demands of work etc. No longer the ‘little woman’ at home preparing all the meals, many working because they have to for family financial reasons and many working for their own needs. Grazing can be a healthy lifestyle choice as can any other method of fulfilling our basic need for sustenance. Just as family meals be contributors to obesity.

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