The number of overweight Flemish toddlers down after peak in 2020

The number of toddlers in our region that are overweight fell in 2021 after having peaked during 2020. The coronavirus pandemic and the many restrictions that the lockdowns designed to curb the virus’ spread brought with them meant that many Flemish toddlers’ exercise, and diet habits were turned upside down. 

Diederik Vancoppenolle is a scientific advisor to the Flemish government agency that deals with child health and welfare issues ‘Opgroeien’ (Growing Up). 

Mr Vancoppenolle told VRT News that “Leisure activities were abandoned and playing with other children became more difficult”. Many children could not go to their crèche or to their child minder. On top of this childcare with grandparents was avoided and many parents had to combine teleworking with childcare."

In 2021, the proportion of two-year-olds that were overweight or obese fell compared with 2020. At 11.1% the proportion of overweight children was highest in Antwerp Province, at 11.1%. It was lowest in West Flanders, where  7.6% of toddlers were found to be overweight.

Despite the downward trend, one in ten toddlers in Flanders is still overweight. The Flemish Government will continue to invest in initiatives to encourage healthy eating and exercise among children. 

The Flemish Health and Welfare Minister Hilde Crevits (Christian democrat) told VRT News that “At childcare facilities and at school, too, attention should be paid to healthy eating and sufficient physical activity.”

"In addition to this, we must not forget that there are often socio-economic problems that make it difficult for families to choose healthy food. Thanks to the "growth" package (child benefit) and the education allowance, we are eliminating some of these obstacles”.

In Flanders there are proportionally slightly more overweight 2-year-old girls (10%) than there are overweight 2-year-old boys (9.4%). The proportion of overweight two-year-old children is higher among children whose mother is not of Belgian origin (13.9% against 7.9%).

Poorer children are proportionally more likely to be overweight (14.3%) than children  of overweight children: 14.3% versus 9% from average income families.

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