The Forgotten Right – by Pau Gasol

Today, November 20th, we celebrate the Universal Children’s Day, when the UN General Assembly proclaimed and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It establishes the inalienable rights of all children based on four principles: non-discrimination, the primacy of the best interests of the child, child participation and guarantee of life, survival and full development.

Today, through the opportunity that national newspaper El País has given me, I will focus on the last one, promoting how a healthy diet contributes to the optimal child’s growth.
Malnutrition affects both children who are unable to access daily food and those who have access to it but, for various reasons, abuse of sugar and processed products; in both cases the risks for a child’s health are many.

ChildObesity is underestimated

Society does not perceive obesity as a disease to be treated, despite being the most common nutritional pathology among children, as states the study conducted in 2015 by the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The main reason for this is that overweight is underestimated and obesity of the children is relegated as a simple aesthetic problem, reason why there is no mobilization in this sense to try to improve the situation.

Childhood obesity is a global health problem of our century. Overweight children are very likely to become obese adults and, and compared to non overweight children, overweight children are more likely to suffer at earlier ages from diabetes and cardiovascular disease associated with an increased likelihood of premature death and disability. Likewise, many studies indicate that children who are overweight or obese tend to have low self-esteem and are frequently victims of social stigmatization, rejection by the nearest environment, humiliation and  isolation.

If the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified international treaty in history, are we not, with sedentary habits and bad food practices, depriving future generations of this fourth principle in which we want to guarantee a full life for all the children?

The Plan of Action of the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, developed by WHO (World Health Organization), constitutes a road map for the establishment and strengthening of surveillance, prevention and treatment initiatives. One of which is obesity.

No intervention by itself can stop the growing epidemic of obesity

The severity of the diagnosis of obesity in society led me to launch the Gasol Foundation, in order to promote and transmit healthy habits of life among the youngest through physical activity and a more balanced and healthy diet, key elements to fight against sedentarism and combat the growing rates of childhood obesity. Through nutrition workshops, physical activity sessions and the involvement of family members and educators, our programs promote children ‘s attitudes and habits for their full development.

But of course, no intervention by itself can stop the growing epidemic of obesity. A multi-sectoral, cross-cutting and coordinated approach is needed: Governments, civil society, families, caregivers, academic institutions and, of course, the private sector must take up the challenge and commitment to fostering healthy lifestyles among children and young people.

The continuous promotion of physical activity in a safe way, making it a priority that the education system takes very seriously physical education within the school schedule. Inclusion of nutrition and health activities in the core curriculum of schools. Invest and work so that children develop in healthy school environments. Ensure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged have access to healthy food. Aspiring to get an effective tax on sugary drinks…

We have the moral responsibility to work together for a common goal: to ensure that the full development of children, including healthy eating, ceases to be The Forgotten Right.

Source: Article published by Pau Gasol on the 21st of November in the Spanish Newspaper ‘El País Semanal’