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Obesity among Icelandic children grows fast

“Obesity is a global problem, and one of the major challenges of the 21st Century. This problem needs effective preventive measures, and plans regarding weight management. It is vital that people take responsibility for their own health, not least to resist various risk factors connected with obesity. Obesity can have serious consequences; high blood pressure, type two diabetes, heart and coronary diseases, as well as various types of cancer,” says Alma Björg Guttormsdóttir, MPH in Public Health Science.

Guttormsdóttir completed her master’s degree in public health science this autumn, on obesity among Icelandic children. “Research has shown that obesity is increasing among Icelandic children. Icelandic children are among the heaviest in Europe, but we are still under WHO’s parameters for an obesity epidemic,” Guttormsdóttir adds.

Guttormsdóttir says she has always been interested in preventive work, and when the Centre for Public Health Science was launched at the University of Iceland in the autumn of 2007 she enrolled in the masters program. Her goal was to engage in research in the field of obesity.

In Guttormsdóttir’s study interviews were conducted with the parents of twelve nine year old children who were measured as obese at the start of the study, and when they had started school. 

“In these interviews various ideas for measures emerged. The parents wished for example for access to a nutritionist at their local healthcare centre, who could assist parents regarding the buying and cooking of healthy food. The parents also claimed their children had started gaining weight when they started going to school; so it seems that school nurses should call all parents and children in at the start of school to discuss healthy food and lifestyle,” says Guttormsdóttir.

 “The parents interviewed in the study would have liked to have been warned earlier by the school nurse when it was clear where their children’s weight was headed, according to regular weight and height measurements.”
Guttormsdóttir says that she says she hopes that the results of the study will be helpful for those working in the health and education systems, “both to develop preventive measures against obesity and how best to assist overweight children and their parents in tackling the problem,” says Guttormsdóttir.

Supervisor: Helga Sif Friðjónsdóttir, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Nursing

Alma Björg Guttormsdóttir working in the hospital