Parents’ wake up call as obesity and sunburn risks rise
UNHEALTHY lifestyles are being baked in at a young age with Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday's youth recording worrying obesity and sunburn rates.
The Health of Queenslanders 2020 report found Mackay Hospital and Health Services region children were heavier on the scales and more burnt than the average Queenslander.
It said nearly a third of Mackay children were overweight or obese, compared to the state average of 27 per cent.
Slade Point Medical Centre general practitioner Malinda Leary said the childhood obesity rate could lock kids into poor health for the rest of their lives.
"Childhood obesity is associated with poorer health in later life and health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnoea," Dr Leary said.
"Children who are overweight or obese are often already suffering some of these effects, such as more muscle and joint pain, poor self esteem, increased risk of bullying, depression and anxiety, and poorer control of other underlying health conditions such as asthma.
She said parents and children should not fixate on the scales, but instead focus on a healthy lifestyle.
"By ensuring our kids have a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and healthy foods, we reduce the likelihood of obesity and set our kids up for the best life possible," Dr Leary said.
"Remember, healthy changes take time and it's better to make small changes that you can stick with over time than big changes that you can't sustain."
Despite the higher obesity rate, the chief health officer's report found more Mackay region kids were eating healthily, with 70 per cent getting the right fruit intake.
But Mackay children were slightly less active than their Central Queensland and Townsville neighbours in 2020.
The physical activity rates of Mackay children also dropped slightly since 2018, from 51 per cent to 49.1 per cent in 2020.
Their time in the sun may be creating more risks, with the chief health officer finding the rates of sunburns among Mackay region kids seven per cent higher than the state average.
More than half the children between five and 17 said they had been burnt in the past 12 months.
The state average sunburn rate was 44.5 per cent.
Mackay children were slightly more sun safe than those in Central Queensland and Townsville where they had sunburn rates of 54.3 per cent and 55.4 per cent.
Dr Leary said while all sunburns were worrying, children's burns created a devastating lifetime risk.
"Children are more susceptible to the negative effects of sunburn, with just one episode of sunburn associated with blistering doubling a child's lifetime risk of having a melanoma," she said.
"Sadly, the loss of some great young people in the Mackay region in the past five years illustrates how skin cancers are not only deadly, but can kill at any age."