The Childhood Obesity Epidemic

By Dr. Akshay Shah

(The author is the co-founder of Jarma Wellness LLP. He holds a BAMS, CPK and a MBA in Healthcare Management. He has close to 12 years of healthcare experience focusing on the areas of preventive healthcare, alternative medicine, first aid & critical care. He contributes articles on preventive healthcare in school periodicals & magazines and conducts sessions & workshops on various health topics for parents, teachers, students and staff. Prior to Jarma Wellness, he managed and operated his own specialty clinic. He spends time as a Consultant Physician in his core area).

 

Weight of a child is an important milestone that parents like to monitor, primary emphasis on checking if the child is underweight. Traditionally in India, less attention has been paid to Obesity in Children. Various statistics have pegged India’s Obese (for the purpose of this article Overweight and Obese is mentioned as Obese) population at 12%, this number is continuously rising. Health screenings completed by Jarma Wellness LLP at different schools across the country indicate much higher weight related issues in the screened students, what is noteworthy is that the Percentage of obese students seem to increase with age:

Jarma

 

What are the effects of Childhood Obesity?

Research has indicated that childhood obesity can lead to various Health issues including:

  1. Diabetes.
  2. High Cholesterol.
  3. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).
  4. Early Heart Disease.
  5. Bone problems.

 

What are the causes of Childhood Obesity?

There are multiple reasons of childhood obesity, while heredity does play some role and there are in rare cases medical conditions / hormonal problems which cause obesity, the primary reasons that are contributing to the rise in childhood obesity in India are:

  1. Lack of adequate physical activity.
  2. Unhealthy eating patterns (increase in availability and preference for high calorie foods).

 

What can parents do?

A study conducted in the US in the year 2012 indicated that 68% of the parents were not aware / did not think that their child was Obese, while no such study has been conducted in India, culturally as a society, parental attitudes here would be similar. The following are examples of what parents can do to prevent their child being obese:

  1. As with everything to do with children, parents should always lead by example.
  2. Motivate the child to increase physical activities (get the child to adopt a sport, go for hiking, invest in a bicycle etc.). Sedentary lifestyles affect the mental health of a child along with their physical health.
  3. Develop importance of healthy eating habits – There has been a massive increase in the availability of high calorie foods in India, children of all ages have developed liking for these foods. Inculcate healthy food habits in children, especially increase the importance and awareness of fruits, vegetables and high fiber diet.
  4. Reduce the sugar intake – As with high calorie foods, there has been a huge increase in the consumption of high sugar foods like chocolates, pastries, ice-creams etc. Multiple healthy dessert options are now available, parents can look at substituting high sugar foods with these items.

Apart from the above, Parents and indeed Schools can play a very important role in developing awareness and the right attitude towards ones health from a young age.

 

Health promotion schools have invested in:

  1. Initiatives involving regular Health Screening in children within the school premises (providing a glimpse into the child’s BMI percentile to the parents among other things).
  2. Adequate facilities and emphasis on physical activities and sports.
  3. Conducting awareness sessions / workshops on health with students and parents.
  4. Providing the right kind of food and nutrition at the school cafeteria.

 

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