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Working together to fight childhood obesity

To underscore Nutrition Month, we would like to share the story of how Théo and his family confronted the issue of childhood obesity as well as highlight Clinique 180’s critical role in this regard. Maude Sirois, clinical nurse at Clinique 180 and coordinator of the Foundation of Stars Centre of Excellence on childhood obesity, shares Théo's story, followed by a touching testimonial from the boy’s mother, Marie-Claude.

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Théo is an 11-year old boy suffering from a disease whose name few dare say out loud: obesity. Théo, while somewhat active, did not exercise on a regular basis. He preferred – by far – playing video games. His diet was not all that bad, but he did lean towards processed foods. At the time of Théo’s first visit to Clinique 180, he was beginning to feel restricted in his daily activities, a development that greatly concerned his parents. His behaviour attested to a poor self-esteem and his relationship with food was creating conflict within the family unit.

For us, Clinique 180 was like a buoy that allowed us to stay afloat and battle the obesity disease. And I specifically use the word 'us' because although Théo was the one afflicted by the disease, our entire family fought alongside him and for him on a daily basis,” explained the boy’s mother. With each successive visit at Clinique 180, Théo became more self-assured. Key elements in the family’s success included a true desire to learn and a willingness to make the necessary changes to improve the health of everyone involved. Théo, from the very outset and regardless of how difficult it sometimes was, made tremendous efforts, and is now a far cry from the young man we met on his first visit. Today, he holds his head high. He smiles. And, his grades in school have improved. The entire family now moves and exercises, and has adopted healthier eating habits. “Dr. Julie St-Pierre, Geneviève the nutritionist and Maude the nurse are a force to be reckoned with! Every time we meet them, they offer us advice, guidance, motivation and kudos. They are helping us gradually change our lifestyle habits and most importantly, showing Théo how he can have a healthy future,” attested his mother Marie-Claude.

Unfortunately, Théo is not an isolated case. Obesity, which is the primary cause behind the spike in cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, now impacts 15% of young Quebecers. 30% of children aged less than 18 years, moreover, are considered overweight. The World Health Organization considers this disease as nothing less than an overlooked and ignored epidemic. Perhaps more importantly, the generation of youth that is currently facing this epidemic will be the first generation to have ever seen its life expectancy drop (compared to previous generations). Not only will their lives be shortened, but they will be mentally afflicted, which will have major socioeconomic impacts. The obesity epidemic brings with it other problems, among them depression, poor self-esteem, absenteeism and more. Victims of a society that is simultaneously obesogenic and obesophobic, these youngsters will need to prevail over widespread societal prejudices. They deserve to have access to appropriate and effective healthcare, adapted to their reality and which will allow them to thrive both mentally and physically. This will in turn enable them to achieve their full potential without being hindered by societal stigmatisation.

There was a crying need to bring together the best childhood obesity researchers and professionals in Québec and collaborate to develop a shared knowledge transfer and action plan. The Foundation of Stars Centre of excellence on childhood obesity provided this platform, which in turn allowed obese children and adolescents and their families to benefit from the collaborative efforts and joint knowledge of a wide panel of experts. In supporting this research, the Centre is essentially focusing on excellence and innovation. The research conducted will allow for identifying the most effective treatments and the long-term solutions most likely to control the obesity epidemic and its negative effects on our youth and society as a whole.

For more information on the Foundation of Stars Centre of excellence click here