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Tipping the scales: Weighing the health impacts of obesity in Canadian kids – November 8, 2011

Over the past 30 years obesity has doubled across all age groups and tripled among teens. The focus for treatment has been on encouraging physical activity and a healthy diet for school-age children however, experts say prevention efforts should also focus on preschoolers before weight becomes an issue.

This SickKids Cafe Scientifique featured two leaders in the field of childhood obesity discussing the prevention, treatment and long-term effects of obesity, as well as society’s role in promoting healthy weights.

The community based discussion focused on the causes, prevention and treatment of childhood obesity. Dr. Catherine Birken kicked off the conversation with revealing statistics that obesity rates among Canadian children have almost tripled in the last 25 years, meaning approximately 26 per cent of kids aged 2-17 are overweight or obese, according to The Childhood Obesity Foundation. Through the TARGet Kids! Program at SickKids, her research group aims to identify prevalence, predictors, outcomes, and effective strategies for prevention of overweight and obesity in children under five.

Dr. Jill Hamilton added to the discussion with her research on the health risks associated with obesity. She works to understand the physiology of children with obesity and the trajectory of weight gain. Hamilton also discussed a group of children who have suffered from a specific type of brain tumour called craniopharyngioma. About half of these kids develop very serious weight gain because the tumours are often located right near the appetite centre of the brain and the site that regulates body weight.    

This Café attracted a broad group of people who were engaged in the discussion and offered their varied perspectives on childhood obesity.  

Dr. Catherine Birken, Associate Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences and Paediatrician, SickKids; Assistant Professor, Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto
Dr. Jill Hamilton, Senior Associate Scientist, Physiology & Experimental Medicine and Endocrinologist, SickKids; Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto
Moderator: Mohamed H. Awad, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Obesity poster