Childhood the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity.

Childhood overweight and obesity have seriously
risen worldwide in the past decades and represent a worrisome socio-economic
and public health problem. The prevalence of pediatric overweight and obesity
in Europe has been estimated being above 20% and the number of overweight
children has been expected to increase by nearly 1.3 million units per year 1. In Italy, approximately more than
35% of children are overweight or obese, an alarming level, higher than the
average value of most of the developed countries 2. Childhood obesity is associated
with an increasing risk of non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular
diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, later in life. Moreover,
obese children are more prone to social problems and poor self-esteem, and to
become obese adults 3. These strong consequences expedite
the need for programmes and policies aimed at preventing pediatric overweight
and obesity.

Schools have been proved to play a vital role
in the promotion of weight management and healthy lifestyles for school-age
children and, thus, to help in the prevention and treatment of childhood
obesity. Actually, school interventions based on nutritional education seem to
be effective in making children more aware and responsible, and in enhancing
their knowledge, skills and attitude. The school environment has been
identified as the optimal place to vehicle nutritional recommendation and
implement health education activities, allowing to reach a large number of children
receiving the same stimuli at the same time and to keep a constant contact with
them, favouring the continuity of educational strategies over time. To be
effective, nutritional education should have a secure position in school curricula,
to help in the development of healthy eating behaviors and an of adequate
nutritional knowledge.

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A suggested method for reducing obesity,
especially for children, are serious games 4. Game-based nutritional learning is
an effective approach to enhance children’s knowledge, behavior, and healthy
dietary habits. Therefore, playful and creative methodologies should be
included into nutritional education programmes for children. Actually,
game-based educational tools can represent the best choice for enhancing the
efficacy of nutritional education during the learning process. Other serious
games present relevant educational content on healthy eating and exercise,
whilst ensuring that all user interaction required physical movement 4. In this way, they convert
sedentary screen time into a more active form. So, one variety of serious games
is direct, where healthy activity within the game or healthy choices (e.g.
real-time exercising) result in better game outcomes and the other variety is indirect,
where real-world activity that is otherwise unrelated to the game (e.g.
walking, consuming less calories) is measured and used as game input 5. In this sense, new technologies allow
the use of more interactive tools to drive information and implement the
learning process in an educational context.

Among new technologies, information and
communication technologies (ICTs) represent a powerful strategy when teaching
nutrition. ICT provide a new channel for the promotion of healthy lifestyles
and the enhancement of public health and seem to be more effective than
traditional printed materials to produce a change in dietary behavior. These
systems often use the behavior modification to assist the intervention of
childhood obesity 6.  

A number of technology interventions, including
the use of mobile apps and wearable computing have arisen to motivate children to
start and continue improving their health and become physically active 7. Recent developments in these
technologies have brought focus to devices capable of monitoring daily physical
activity while providing valuable feedback to the user. The idea behind these
approaches is to maximize activity throughout the day even if no single period
is exclusively designated for exercise. Through this approach, the user is
encouraged either directly (through activity indicators) or indirectly (through
animations or games) to make more active choices throughout the day.