Media releases

November 22, 2005

Gaze Days latest push to combat childhood obesity

One in five Australian children under the age of 14 is presently overweight or obese - this translates to close to 240,000 Victorian children.

Being obese or even clinically overweight is also associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk factors and Type 2 Diabetes in children and adolescents.

Fronted by Andrew Gaze, 'Medibank Gaze Days'  is the latest initiative to combat these alarming rates of childhood obesity from Australia's largest health fund Medibank Private.

With more than 830,000 Victorian members - 142,856 aged 14 or under - Medibank Private is well aware of the cost of obesity and related health factors.

The conventional remedy for obesity is to either decrease calorie intake and/or increase calorie expenditure through higher levels of physical activity.

Medibank Gaze Days is a new concept to encourage children to get active - a step towards helping beat childhood obesity. Medibank Gaze Days is a free day of activity exclusive to children aged 6-14 years who are Medibank Private members.

The event will provide the opportunity to Medibank Private members to play basketball, netball, Aussie rules, rugby league, and table tennis with the sports' biggest names from Melbourne Tigers, Melbourne Phoenix, Melbourne Storm, and the Victorian Table Tennis Team.

Andrew Gaze, five time Olympian and basketball legend, said, "It is vital to help kids understand the importance of physical activity in terms of maintaining a healthy weight and general health while their bodies are still developing.

"I'm impressed that Medibank Private has committed to doing more than just talking about the health of our children - together we are getting out there, literally rolling our sleeves up and getting involved, surely this is the only way to leave a real impression and make a difference", Andrew said.

Medibank Private General Manager - Southern States, Peter McNeil, added, "Medibank Private is an advocate for health and wellbeing of all Australians, particularly our nearly three million members."

"It makes sense then for us to develop ways to help people manage health issues such as childhood obesity, and ensure members are active in working to prevent or mitigate health risks such as obesity and the associated health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"Medibank Gaze Days will include give-aways, refreshments, professional supervision and medical staff on site along with the free activities and with the line up of sporting talent we might even motivate the adults to get more active!" Peter said.

Event Information:

WHEN: Saturday 21st January 2006

WHERE: Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre

WHO: Andrew Gaze and athletes from leading Melbourne sports teams.

HOW: Register online at or visit a Medibank Private Retail Centre - locations can be found on the Medibank Private website.

For more information please contact:
Libby Woolnough, Medibank Private - PH: 8622 5181 / 0411 659 060

Fact sheet on child and adolescent overweight and obesity

� Estimated up to 1 in 5 children and adolescents are overweight or obese
� The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated the child population as at 30 June 2003 was approximately 3.9 million (20% of the total Australian population).
� Victoria has 959,215 children aged 0-14 years. This represents 24.1% of all Australian children in that age bracket and 19.5% of the Victorian population
� Childhood obesity in Australia has been estimated to be rising at an annual rate of 1% (Australasian Society for the Study of Obesity 2004) - half of all young Australians could be overweight by the year 2025.

How it happens
� It's basic physics - body weight results from the net balance of calorie intake (food) and calorie expenditure (metabolism and physical activity) over time

Contributing factors
� Risk factors contributing to childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity
� Genetics - parental obesity is a risk factor for the future
� Ethnicity - some ethnic groups may have a greater risk
� Family, school and social influences
o Amount of television viewing
o Reduced physical activity
o Dietary behaviours
� Medical conditions such as endocrine disorders
� Some medical treatments

� Socio economic status and urban living are not risk factors
� A whole-of-population shift to more sedentary lifestyles has been experienced in many developed countries including Australia (AIHW 2004d).
� Children are far less likely to use walking or pedal cycling as a means of transport or to play outdoors after school or on weekends than children of previous generations.

Health Issues
� There are six main risks overweight and obese children and adolescence face
o Psychosocial distress such as teasing or isolation - greater for females and increases with age
o Cardiovascular - obese children have a three times greater risk of hypertension.
o Insulin resistance and diabetes - higher prevalence of Type 2 diabetes appears related (in some communities) to obesity

o Lifestyle/self image impacts
 Heat intolerance
 Breathlessness on exertion
 Tiredness
 Flat feet
 Pseudo-gynaecomastia in males (breasts)
 Pseudo-micro penis in males
 Stretch marks
o Medical conditions
 Orthopaedic
 Respiratory (ie obstructive sleep apnoea and asthma)
 Gastrointestinal (ie reflux and fatty liver)
 Neurological
 reproductive (menstrual irregularities)

� Conventional strategies
o Reduce energy intake through diet and using normal foods
 For weight management it is recommended that children and adolescents should be encouraged to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
o Increase energy expenditure
 Reduce the hours of TV viewing
 Increase time in organised physical activity
o Changing behaviour - fundamental change is required to deliver the first two items
o Family involvement and support - increases the likelihood of success
� It takes time

If you are worried about the weight or health of your child - see your family GP

Sources of Information found above:

National Health and Medical Research Council 2003
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2005

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