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Understanding and removing barriers to physical activity: one key in addressing child obesity
  1. Lisa Murphy1,
  2. Alessandro R Demaio2
  1. 1 Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University London, London, UK
  2. 2 Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alessandro R Demaio, World Health Organization, 1202 Genève, Switzerland; demaioa{at}who.int

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Latest worldwide estimates suggest that by 2016, 41 million children under 5 years and 337 million aged 5–19 years were overweight; obesity rates in the latter population had seen a tenfold increase in just four decades.1 2 Overweight and obesity affect the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine and neuromuscular systems. An associated and increasing burden of chronic disease, coupled with the related economic costs of increased disability and reduced productivity, is devastating health systems and hindering socioeconomic development in many nations.

Prevention-focused policy with a particular emphasis on nutrition is key to combating this epidemic. However, this alone will be insufficient; a growing body of evidence now also supports complementary, individual-level, lifestyle interventions to arrest and reverse the established burden. Recently published Cochrane reviews, for example, suggest that multicomponent lifestyle modification may afford small but important reductions in age-standardised body mass index for children and adolescents of all ages.3 In addition, interventions that recruited overweight parents of young children also resulted in a significant and sustainable reduction in parental weight.

At a national level, strong correlations exist between socioeconomic status (SES) and child …

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