NETWORKING: MPH Conference 2012

Response to the Dean


After the first session of the PHocus conference the floor was opened up to questions. During this time the Dean of our school, Antoine Flahault, asked the following question “why is there a strong public health focus against obesity when actually some data shows being at a higher weight to be healthier?”

P1030406The response given on the day centred on it being important to not focus on weight itself, but on overall health. This is an admiral perspective and totally true. The focus should be on promoting health and healthy behaviours rather than purely eliminating obesity. However, it must be remembered that this conference was about child health. Not adult health. Therefore the issue here is child obesity. Not adult obesity. Having worked with overweight children for several years I have seen the damage first hand that obesity in children can do. I have seen the poor health it can cause; not only poor physical health but poor mental health too. It cannot be denied that obese children fair worse than their healthy weight counterparts. Overweight and obese children are getting diabetes; they have hormonal disorders, suffer with insomnia, and are victims of depression. Three year olds are being diagnosed with high cholesterol; children at any age should not already have high cholesterol! This is then the reason it bothers me when people go around quoting that obesity isn’t all that bad; because in children it is. It is a giant sign that something has gone enormously wrong! Spreading the ideology that obesity is good for health is a dangerous game to be playing. It is a gross simplification of complicated scientific data that may be misinterpreted as a green light to put on the pounds. Heavier children are not healthier children and that is a message which needs to be understood loud and clear.



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  • Camilla,

    I think the Dean was actually addressing a study that suggested that adults within the “overweight BMI” range have a reduced risk of developing a certain health outcome (heart attack?) compared to those within the “normal BMI” range. The study actually did not mention anything about obesity (being within the “obese BMI” range) being “healthier”. As you’ve pointed out, obviously even if this were the case, health correlates of adult obesity and child obesity may well be markedly different.

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