Help to halt the rise of childhood obesity in Malta and Gozo – Readers Letter
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“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.”
Gozo Greyhounds Sports Club.
Photograph: Children taking healthy exercise on Gozo hike