OTTAWA – Strategies to prevent obesity among aboriginal children must begin with an understanding of the unique social and historical factors that shape their broader community, a study suggests.
“There needs to be a focus on improving the risk factors such as income and education,” said Noreen Willows, a co-author of the study published in the February issue of the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
“Additionally, there needs to be a focus on embracing the cultural practices in terms of language and pride in the aboriginal culture to influence health behaviours and outcomes,” Willows said in a release Tuesday.
The study says prevention of obesity in aboriginal youngsters needs to begin by focusing on the parents before and during pregnancy, and on breastfeeding initiatives and nutrition in early childhood.
Numerous environments at different times of childhood drive the risk of childhood obesity: the in-utero environment, which influences birth weight, growth patterns and disease risk; the family environment, in which the child is raised and nurtured; and the larger surrounding environments encompassing policy, community, and cultural and societal factors, the authors say.
There is no one fix to the obesity epidemic in aboriginal children, the study stresses. Strategies for weight management in this population need to include changing all influential factors at each level of the child’s environment, and the members of the community need to have an active role in pursuing this goal.