Giving Compass' Take:

• Doctors are testing a smartphone app that aim to address childhood obesity by trying to encourage behavior change. 

• How can identifying early factors of childhood obesity help advance the technology that can potentially help older children who are overweight? 

• Read about why childhood obesity rates in the U.S. continue to climb. 

A smartphone app that challenges children to engage in healthy behaviour, and genetic studies that investigate risk factors for obesity, are taking a nature and nurture approach to tackle one of the biggest epidemics of our time – childhood obesity.

Around 224 million children around the world are overweight, making obesity one of the biggest public health issues concerning youngsters today. It can lead to type 2 diabetes later in life and may carry risks for cancer.

What we hope to see is that we can use technology, especially the Internet of Things and gamification, to try and prevent obesity or improve acquisition of healthy behaviours,’ Dr Bastida said.

Dr Bastida coordinates the European arm of a project called OCARIoT, which is working with researchers in Brazil to develop behavioural interventions for children, focusing on nine to 12 year olds. ‘This is the most risky age group,’ said Dr Bastida, referring to how obesity tends to manifest in children with a higher body mass index when they reach around 11 years of age.

The project is designing a personalised, entertaining app for children – accessible via smartphone and computer – which monitors physical activity and calorie intake using wearable sensors, and provides wellbeing advice.

The team is now refining its design and wearables and hope to launch the draft app in January 2019. Their ultimate aim is to prevent obesity. ‘If we don’t solve it at this kind of age range it can bring other health problems for these children,’ she said.

Read the full article about childhood obesity by Shaoni Bhattacharya at The Naked Scientists