Spanish institutions have forgotten to encourage the consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes in schools and child overweight has become a serious problem that no one seems willing to tackle
We often see news in the press and television about the " worrisome" problem of childhood obesity. Unfortunately, this news passes and, sometime later, it is replaced by similar ones. While that happens, Spanish schoolchildren continue to gain weight. Exactly like the children of Malta, Greece and Italy.
You do not have to be an expert in public health or be a professor of statistics to realize that, faced with such a problem, there will be medium and long-term consequences on the health of citizens. Obesity is linked to many chronic diseases, from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes to cancer.
To all this we must add that those who should do something to prevent that excess weight are not doing it well. Or they are even doing next to nothing. I will give some examples so that the reader does not have to limit himself to reading figures and survey data.
I myself keep press clippings on the "serious problem" of cholesterol and childhood obesity. They are from 1991. At that time, the Spanish government took a report to the most important meeting on nutrition of the WHO-FAO in Rome in which it stated something like that “the Spanish population tends to move away from the Mediterranean diet” and that "something has to be done about it."
Since then, the consumption of legumes and bread, for example, has not stopped falling in Spain, along with disappointing figures for the intake of fruit and vegetables, the basis of the Mediterranean diet. Much reaction in this regard is not that there has been.
However, numerous studies carried out in the United States and in Europe itself point to the Mediterranean diet as a healthy lifestyle. If followed, it would reduce the obesity figures, drastically improve the number of diabetes cases, regulate our cholesterol, reduce breast cancer, hypertension and osteoporosis.
But the truth is that Spanish institutions do nothing, or almost nothing, to effectively promote the consumption of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and virgin olive oil in all areas. Especially in schools where it is true that school cafeteria menus have improved a lot. Of course, after decades of neglect, suspicious fried foods, sanjacobos and croquettes.
For the same price, you adults try to follow a Mediterranean diet in your workplace. If you are a student, at your University. Or if they are unfortunate enough to be hospitalized or forced to go to live in a nursing home. The truth is that the Mediterranean diet, admired throughout the world, is practiced less every day in Spain. From schools to residences. And if adults don't eat it, we can't expect kids to, especially with the publicity and social harassment about the wonders of fast food, hamburger, and chewy pizza.
Culprits and solutions
Don't bother looking for guilty parties: we all have that fault at the same time. It is a social problem that requires the involvement of everyone, of all institutions.
That the corresponding ministries or the government, at once, obligatorily include a subject or topics on health and healthy eating in the school curriculum. In the 80s it was planned and ended up in a drawer.
That physical activity in the school environment was better and with more hours. And that, of course, the children also did it outside the school environment. They cannot imagine the children who do at most two or three hours, the "compulsory" ones, of weekly "gymnastics" at school. Along with three hours a day, or more, of screens, mobiles and computers.
That the municipalities provide sufficient and nearby sports areas for the residents.
That in the school menu someone really supervises that what is said and signed in the contracts is carried out, and that where it says "vegetable stew" there is real vegetables and not four scattered peas and three pieces of carrot that the child does not even eat.
That in hospitals and health centers there should be nutritionists to advise and provide health education on nutrition for pregnant or lactating women, schoolchildren and adults. Everyone knows that huge amounts of money and resources would be saved through prevention, but it seems that medication is the premium.
Continuing to investigate and learn about such a complex and diffuse problem, which encompasses all social classes and geographical regions, is essential.
Today, by the way, we only have partial statistics and studies that are too generic. Our own research group can tell how we have detected pockets of childhood obesity of tremendous importance in places like Madrid, theoretically a region where obesity is not very prevalent. Also that when in that Madrid town we have proposed a concrete intervention plan to the city council, the authorities have preferred to ignore it so as not to cause " social alarm”. You know about the ostrich.
If we are really interested, as a society, in childhood obesity, the first thing to do is understand that it is everyone's problem, at all levels. And that it is essential to have a specific program, work to improve the situation and evaluate its effectiveness. It sounds very technical, heavy, "give me time." But we have already tried politics, good words and ineffectiveness and, believe me, with little success.
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