Teenage girls need to shape up for parenting

A leading Queensland obesity researcher has said adolescent girls need to improve their fitness 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 between excess 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 per cent of teenage girls are overweight or obese.

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

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

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

“The goal needs to be to have healthy teenage girls. Unhealthy practices and patterns tend to cluster and compound on each other as we develop and obesity can be very harmful to developing 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 daily life 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 to occur in a number of settings, including school at all levels.”

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