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World failing to protect children from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices say experts

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NO country is adequately protecting children’s health, environment and futures, a  report by health experts around the world has shown.

The report titled A Future for the World’s Children? was released on Wednesday by a Commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet.

Experts are convinced that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide are under threat from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol, and tobacco at children.

“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Commission.

“It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.”

The report urged both developing and developed countries to overhaul their approach to child and adolescent healthcare with a view to protecting children and the world.

In a new global index of 180 countries, comparing performance on child flourishing, including measures of child survival and well-being, such as health, education, and nutrition; sustainability, with a proxy for greenhouse gas emissions, and equity, or income gaps, data showed that the poorest countries need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives, as excessive carbon emissions – disproportionately from wealthier countries –  threaten the future of all children.

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The index shows that children in Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being, while children in Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger, and Mali face the worst odds.

Harmful marketing has also been exposed as posing threats to children.

Evidence suggests that children in some countries see as many as 30,000 advertisements on television alone in a single year, while youth exposure to vaping (e-cigarettes) advertisements increased by more than 250 per cent in the USA over two years, reaching more than 24 million young people.

The report postulated that children’s exposure to commercial marketing of junk food and sugary beverages is associated with the purchase of unhealthy foods and overweight and obesity, linking predatory marketing to the alarming rise in childhood obesity.

The number of obese children and adolescents increased from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016 – an 11-fold increase, with dire individual and societal costs.

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