When we think of people that have one or more prominent chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or mental health conditions we don't tend to think of children having them.
We tend to think of these conditions affecting people above a certain age, which is mostly correct.
So why should people care about these concerns when they are young? Why - because did you know that:
- Some diseases, such as asthma and type 1 diabetes, usually begin in childhood or adolescence.
- The processes leading to coronary heart disease or cerebrovascular disease begin earlier in life.
- Some of these influences of adult chronic diseases can begin before birth.
- Today's children, who are subject to increased behavioural risks at earlier ages through the consumption of energy-dense foods and poor diet, increased screen time and reduced physical activity, will live longer with risk factors such as obesity (Amschler 2002; Swinburn et al. 2004).
- The future impact of these behavioural risks on individuals, populations and the health system will be significant.
- Low birthweight is associated with increased rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes later in life.
- What people do or do not eat in adulthood, is often established much earlier in life. Poor nutrition early in life, may affect how particular forms of fat are tolerated later in life.
- Early social disadvantage may interact in later life to increase coronary heart disease risk.
- Cholesterol, blood pressure and overweight measures at young ages often persist into adulthood, and can predict the later occurrence of coronary heart disease.
- Smoking habits acquired in adolescence or early adulthood greatly increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in adulthood and old age - along with cancers and many other chronic diseases.
- The age of quitting smoking is also important and a major influence in reducing later COPD, coronary heart disease, and other chronic disease risk.
- Diet influences a woman's risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and that overweight and diabetes in pregnancy can predispose her children to obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Observational studies have also shown that being overweight or obese or having type 2 diabetes in pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of having children with autism spectrum disorders or with a developmental delay.
- Children of mothers who ate an unhealthier diet in pregnancy had higher levels of problem behaviours.