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Germany

Germany Tackles Growing Girth Issue

Consumer Affairs Minister Renate Künast has announced an initiative to take on a growing problem in German society – child and teen obesity.

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The number of obese children in Germany is on the rise.

“Every third child, and every fifth teenager, is massively overweight,” Künast told a German television program on Tuesday. The minister wants to see to it that German children learn to eat better, and get more exercise.

According to Künast, the increase in obesity is due to two factors: the soaring growth of the fast food industry over the past 20 years, and a lack of exercise resulting from the increase in computers and television sets in the home.

Society pays

The obesity epidemic is more than just a question of looks – it is also very costly for the German health care system, Künast said at the opening Tuesday of the “Children and Nutrition” congress in Berlin. The meeting, which included representatives of the Consumer Affairs Ministry, the German Parents’ Association, the German Sports League, scientists and business leaders, is the government’s first step at tackling the problem head on.

Speaking at the Berlin conference, pediatrician Kurt Stübing warned that poor childhood nutrition can set the stage for severe psychological and somatic disorders. In addition to personal difficulties like lower self esteem, other illnesses such as joint diseases, circulatory system diseases, or diabetes can result.

Kind im Kinderwagen mit Fast Food

Child in stroller with french fries and soft drink, video still

According to Künast, as much as a third of the total costs facing the public health care system can be traced back to food-related illnesses. Given the current trend, the health care system stands to be put under severe stress as doctors begin treating obesity-related, often chronic illnesses for patients starting at a much younger age.

Education campaign

“We have to make children want to eat healthy and exercise,” Künast said. To that end, she announced that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is planning a broad campaign on nutrition education.

She has asked business, scientists and the media to take part in the action. Several companies have already said they want to join the initiative, which will involve using better and healthier recipes in pre-packaged food, and clearer packaging information, and more specific advertising.

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