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Could This Initiative Spell the End of Childhood Obesity?

When it isn't just Puppy Fat

Is weight loss for children a good idea? |

Obesity is a huge problem for kids, not only here in Canada and the States but also overseas. In the UK, the government got involved by sending out controversial "fat letters" to parents of primary schoolchildren whose body mass index (BMI) results showed they were overweight or obese.

But that approach totally backfired. Only one-fifth of parents responded favourably to the letter.

Now a new initiative has been proposed: healthy food vouchers for parents of overweight children. A similar program already exists for pregnant women and moms on low incomes. It's probably a step in the right direction, and far preferable to the shaming method.

The trouble is, when it comes to eating habits and sedentary lifestyle, the apple usually doesn't fall far from the tree. 

Obese kids tend to have obese parents. If mom and dad live on junk and processed food, so do the kids. And would these parents take advantage of incentives to eat more fruit and vegetables, as public health experts advise, because it would mean them overhauling their own habits? Often the reasons behind obesity are more complicated than that. 

Further, how would providers ensure families were spending the vouchers on healthful products, and would the stipend be sufficient to change eating habits? It's a slippery slope to mandate how people spend their grocery money. 

The percentage of obese children in primary school is rising every year. Upwards of one in three, according to some surveys, and possibly more ssince weight often is not recorded for otherwise healthy young children.  

Studies show that many of us believe what some refer to as "puppy fat" is cute and harmless since those extra pounds will likely be shed over time. But that's not strictly true, and by the time puberty rolls around those habits - and excess pounds - are harder to shift, even despite growth spurts and higher caloric needs.

 RELATED: Proactive Measure or Fat Shaming?