Teenage girls need to shape up for parenting

A leading Queensland obesity researcher has said adolescent girls need to improve theirfitness and diet if they are to avoid health issues when they decide to start a family.

Griffith Health Institute’s Professor Andrew Hills is exploring the relationship betweenexcess fat in teenage girls and the health outcomes of mothers and babies during and after

In the most recent Queensland Child Health Report (2011), it was found that nearly 20 percent of teenage girls are overweight or obese.

“There has been a significant gap in research when it comes to obesity, with the teenageyears being a crucial area,” Professor Hills said.

“If young women are overweight or obese they could have significant issues when theywish to start a family in early adulthood.”

Professor Hills believes there needs to be a concerted effort to change how we develophealthy children into healthy women.

“The goal needs to be to have healthy teenage girls. Unhealthy practices and patterns tendto cluster and compound on each other as we develop and obesity can be very harmful todeveloping babies in utero.

“What is worse is that obesity in the mother may pre-program poor health into the
metabolism of the baby and then the problem snowballs,” he said.

Part of the answer, Professor Hills believes, is in a return to more physical activity in dailylife including comprehensive physical education and nutrition programs in high schools to
help prevent the obesity problem.

“We have engineered physical activity out of daily life. Fundamental changes need tooccur in a number of settings, including school at all levels.”

Professor Andrew Hills is based at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane.