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Aussie research brings hope to prevent childhood obesity

Researchers of Australia’s University of Queensland (UQ) have developed and validated a model which could predict if babies were at risk of childhood obesity by the age of eight to nine, the university said on Tuesday.

With simple risk factors mostly gathered during routine doctor visits at 12 months of age, the researchers developed the i-PATHWAY model.

Relevant research was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The risk factors were the baby’s weight change in the first year, mother’s pre-pregnancy height and weight, father’s height and weight, baby’s sleep pattern in the first year, premature birth, if the mother smoked during pregnancy.

According to Oliver Canfell, if the baby is female, research fellows the dietitian with the UQ Centre for Health Services Research. Canfell said the model could calculate the risk of childhood obesity 74.6-percent accuracy.

According to the researchers, almost one-in-four Australian children live with an unhealthy weight.

Obesity prevention was most effective in the first 1,000 days of life, and the i-PATHWAY model could be used in this period to prioritise prevention for babies at high risk.

“Identifying babies at high risk means that clinicians and families can be proactive together to implement preventive actions that are family-based,’’ Canfell said.

“We chose to predict childhood obesity at age eight or nine years because the older the children with obesity, the more likely they are to live with obesity as adults.

“This is critical to help prevent obesity in the long-term.’’

With the help of data from almost 2,000 children followed from birth to the age of nine in the “Raine Study’’ in the state of Western Australia, researchers validated that predicting childhood obesity in Australia was possible.

But further test of the model in a different group of children is needed to confirm its predictions are still valid before the model could be put into clinicians’ practice.

“Once i-PATHWAY is validated in a different group, we can then test i-PATHWAY in practice and see how effective it is in helping to prevent childhood obesity,’’ Canfell said.


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