December 3, 2003
Despite programs combining a healthy diet and physical exercise to fight obesity in children, the number of overweight children in Sweden has tripled in the past 15 years. Currently 19 percent of boys and 15 percent of girls are overweight.
Yet it isn't supposed to be like this in Sweden. For years this nation of nine million has had the sorts of programs, combining healthy diet and physical exercise, that antiobesity advocates everywhere dream about:
- Unlike the United States, vending machines are unheard of in Swedish schools.
- Sports programs are heavily subsidized to get youngsters up and moving.
- TV commercials aimed at kids under 12 are banned.
- Schoolchildren as young as eight learn to cook healthy meals.
- McDonald's Corp.'s sales in Sweden have tripled since 1992; last year, the company spent the equivalent of $34.5 million on marketing in the country, compared with less than $12 million in 1994.
- Coca-Cola Co.'s ad spending has risen 15-fold since 1994, to almost $20 million; cola sales have risen 17 percent since 1998.
- Meanwhile, Swedish children are being lured by myriad new programs on international satellite TV; these shows and their ads aren't bound by Swedish restrictions.
- According to Sweden's National Institute of Public Health, 40 percent of teenage boys participate in organized physical activity at least four times a week, up from 28 percent in 1985; however, they spend as much as 5.3 hours per day watching TV, surfing the Web, talking on the phone or doing other sedentary activities.
Source: Deborah Ball, "Swedish Kids Show Difficulty Of Fighting Fat," Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2003.
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