Canadian children and youth are becoming obese as a result of insufficient physical activity and poor diet. Kenya is a country where traditionally most children live an active lifestyle and thus have been protected from the childhood obesity pandemic. Currently, their growing affluence and global economic and technological influences place them at-risk of transitioning to more obesity-promoting environments and behaviours common-place in North America.

As developing nations become more prosperous, they acquire some of the benefits along with some of the problems of industrialized nations. A series of changes in the diet and nutrition patterns as well as a shift away from the high energy expenditure activities such as farming, mining, and forestry towards more sedentary occupations, together with less active modes of transportation and activity patterns during leisure hours, are contributing to the “nutrition and physical activity transition”. According to the International Obesity Task Force, 0.7 percent of children in Africa are showing features of malnutrition, but over 3 percent are exhibiting signs of obesity.

Kenya, like many other African nations, is undergoing such a transition. While technologies such as computers, the internet, satellite TV, cell phones and other similar emerging technologies took decades to permeate North American society, all of these ‘electronic age’ items are becoming available very quickly in Kenya. Unfortunately these conveniences of modern life are associated with a more sedentary lifestyle that carries with it a substantial health burden.

KIDS-CAN Research Alliance has been formed to help study and prevent childhood obesity, inactivity and over-nutrition. Experiences and initiatives from Canada may be exported to assist with these emerging challenges in Kenya. An examination of Kenyan children’s physical activity and lifestyle patterns may assist Canadian interventions.

Objectives of the establishment of this international collaboration:

  • To promote and facilitate research in the area of determinants/predictors of child obesity
  • To exploit the timing of the current childhood obesity crisis in Canada, the nutrition and activity transition threat in Kenya and the recent development and implementation of measurement protocols for the Canadian Health Measures Survey
  • To develop a research exchange program that will allow for the training and support of young researchers/trainees who are interested in this area of study
  • To develop and foster a long-term international partnership to promote the generation of relevant data on child obesity-related factors and effectively disseminate this information
  • To serve as a model (or nucleus) for expansion of international partnership to other countries