Are parents to blame for childhood obesity?

Childhood obesity is a problem. It is a function of the foods children eat both at home and at school. The people responsible for feeding children are parents not advertisers. Running the line that it is all to do with advertising allows adults to run a “Johnny told me to” line, which would not be accepted as an excuse from a child.

It is not about blaming parents. It is about telling it straight. Unless we tell parents that what their children eat is their responsibility we will not see change. The only people who can change the eating patterns of children are parents.

A new video is doing the rounds on the internet. It is about childhood obesity. The video can be described as provocative. It shows a mother with a child sitting at a table. The mother appears to be getting ready to inject the child with a drug and at the last minute she gives the child some “junk food” to eat. The question asked is if you wouldn’t harm your child by injecting then with drugs what are you doing giving them food which is bad for their health?

Good question!

So given the amount of concern about this issue you would expect that such a video would be welcomed by those who are pushing the barrow of a need to do something.

Surprisingly this was not the case.

It is interesting to see how wedded people are to their own view of the world. This is particularly the case with so called “experts” and people who hold academic and other positions of authority.

According to Australian ABC News, two leading public health figures did not like it. That, of itself is fair enough. People have different tastes. It was the reasons which caught my eye. The ad apparently put the emphasis on the child and put the blame on the parents instead of the people writing junk food ads.

Really! So who exactly is it that feeds children? Is it the parents or people writing ads? They feed their own children but no one else’s. The word blame is pejorative and not helpful. What if we said it laid responsibility for what children eat at the feet of parents?

It was particularly interesting to see then that the productivity commission has looked at a range of programs to deal with childhood obesity. These are the ones so loved by public health people and academics because it results in funding for their programs.

The commission found that of the 27 programs assessed, none had a major impact on the problem. Furthermore it debunked the notion that there was any direct link between TV watching and childhood obesity despite children being “bombarded” with ads. It found that banning junk food advertising would have no impact on childhood obesity.

This comes as no surprise to me but no doubt will astound some of our friends in academia land who will dismiss it, as it does not fit with their pre-conceived notions. It is always fascinating to see people who invoke research, sing a different tune when the research is not to their liking.

What children eat is a function of what they are fed. The people responsible for feeding children are parents. If we are going to see any changes, then it is parental behavior that will need to change.

Joe Kosterich is a physician in Australia who blogs at Dr. Joe Today.

Submit a guest post and be heard on social media’s leading physician voice.

View 12 Comments >