Aimee Barclay's daughter Savannah who suffers from a rare medical condition that affects her weight.
Aimee Barclay's daughter Savannah who suffers from a rare medical condition that affects her weight. Aimee Barclay

Mum reveals own weight struggles and daughter, 3

MORE resources in schools and cheaper extra-curricular activities could help curb Mackay region's youth obesity problem, parents say. But doctors believe it's up to the community.

Dysart mother Aimee Barclay, whose 3-year-old daughter is overweight due to a rare medical condition, says there is limited support available in Mackay - their nearest option for most health treatment, information and support.

Mrs Barclay admits to struggling with her own weight and is booked in for gastric sleeve surgery next week in order to "be a better role model" for her kids and to lead a healthier, longer life.

She wants to ensure the same healthy future for her daughter but feels alone in their battle.

"Savannah suffers from Diffuse Multi Nodular Mastocytosis and hEDS, which makes it hard for her to lead a very active life," Mrs Barclay said.

"We've seen doctors and dietitians but find it hard to get the right help. I've had to resort to online information. I would like to see more of them have a better understanding of foods, sensitivities and allergies," she said.

"And it would also be great to have workshops in areas like out here so families in smaller communities can get help.

"It would also be nice to have government-funded sporting classes, or cheaper options for all ages to help kids with exercise and learning to eat healthily."

Mrs Barclay, who previously lived in Mackay, said she had been able to access more help from the limited services in Dysart than in Mackay, which eventually was the reason for their move.

In addition to a lack of resources and support, she said limited sport in schools didn't help their situation.

Many Mackay parents agree.

Mother-of-two Kristy-Lee O'Brien said while her eldest son is fit and healthy for his age, she couldn't believe the lack of sport and exercise that he was required to do as a student of his primary school.

"He is six years old and all they do is HPE once a week and then for one week of the year they do swimming lessons for 45 minutes a day," she said.

"That's it, nothing else, it's crazy, when I went to school it was compulsory to do HPE twice a week plus swimming lessons and other activities, I couldn't believe this was all he's doing, it's beyond a joke.


Children playing a game of footy with the Cowboys.
Children playing a game of footy with the Cowboys. Tony Martin

"Plus not only that but sport outside of school needs to be more affordable as well, it is so hard for parents, I just paid $800 for one child in soccer registration fees and that doesn't even include a uniform.

"Sometime it feels like you need to be a millionaire to raise children in society today, if it were just included in schools it would be such a weight off parents financially and I honestly think it would help in the obesity crisis."

However while some parents feel schools are partially to blame, others say it comes down to healthy eating and affordability of healthy foods.

Northern Beaches mother Natasha Irelandes said her child's school goes above and beyond to ensure their students are active, playing sport, providing accredited swimming lessons and after school programs.

She feels childhood obesity is rather stemming from families struggling to buy healthy food due to the cost.

"Families who are struggling for money and find it's much cheaper to buy bad foods and unfortunately bad food lasts longer too," she said.

"I have friends who have fallen prey to the downfall in work and money is very tight, they can't afford to buy bulk fruits and vegetables and it's much more affordable buying chips and biscuits, and snack bars etc for school lunches and snacks.

"And once children get a taste of these types of foods on a regular basis it's a very hard cycle to break, parenting is a very big contributing factor in incline of children obesity as we buy the foods they eat and also choose what activities they do.

"But it doesn't mean that they are bad parents, if money is tight and it's the only way to feed your children then you do what you have to do, but also sometimes parents need education on benefits of healthier food just as much as children."


Childhood obesity is a worrying issue in Mackay.
Childhood obesity is a worrying issue in Mackay. kwanchaichaiudom

Medical experts say it is a combination of each of these issues, plus more, that is contributing to steadily increasing obesity figures, and believe it will take a whole of community "multi- disciplinary approach" to fix the problem.

Caneland Medical GP Ashley Nattrass, who has over 20 years experience in family medicine, has seen the obesity issue go from bad to worse in Mackay.

"It is my opinion that you have to have lots of people involved to beat this issue; that includes parents, sporting teams, teachers, schools, the individuals themselves, doctors all working together on this," he said.

"Because it is a problem we are not winning, it is something we know is causing a tremendous drain on society and medical resources and it does need more attention.

"While most of my current clients are healthy people involved in sporting activities, my colleagues often discuss observing youth obesity quite frequently, it's a problem."

Dr Nattrass said children who start their lives with weight problems will find it more difficult to curb the habits, potentially facing a future of depression, anxiety, reflux, back pain, diabetes, sleep problems heart disease, strokes and so on.

"The list goes on, there are just so many things linked to obesity and if it starts young and progresses into later life then certainly that can have quite a detrimental effect on the individual as well as a strain on society," he said.

"Kids need to be out engaging in sporting activities, outdoors, exercising during school, off their devices, just these little things would at least be a partial solution.

"Healthy food is expensive and unfortunately bad food is cheap and quick, which is detrimental to obesity, I wish I could offer an easy solution, but there are so many factors.

"It will take multi-disciplinary action from various angles and people to really fix the problem."

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