The Dangers of Childhood Obesity

art-474-01Childhood obesity needs to be highly prioritised to ensure that children of today and the future are able to live longer and healthier

One of the most serious public health concerns in the 21st century is childhood obesity, which is affecting numerous nations globally, especially within urban areas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that an estimated 38.2 million children aged five and below were reported to be overweight or obese in 2019; nearly half of whom lived in Asia.

Meanwhile, among children and adolescents aged between five and 19, the percentage of those who were overweight and obese rose at an alarming rate from a mere four percent in 1975 to over 18 percent to 2016.

Children who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of early death and disability when they become adults, as they are susceptible to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders and certain forms of cancer.

Even in their younger years, overweight and obese children might experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early signs of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.

Among the primary factors contributing to the prevalence of childhood obesity are the changes in diet that favour increased intake of energy-dense foods that are low in vitamins, mineral and other healthy micronutrients, as well as a trend towards decreased levels of physical activities.

The WHO attributes these shifts in dietary and physical activity patterns to societal and environmental changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in areas of health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education.

Of greater concern, unlike many adults, children lack options in choosing where they want to live or what they want to eat, as well as the understanding of the long-term consequences of their unhealthy habits.

Thus, given that overweight and obesity along with their related diseases are largely preventable, tackling childhood obesity must involved sustained political commitment and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders, particularly public and private sectors.

“Supportive policies, environments, schools and communities are fundamental in shaping parents’ and children’s choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing obesity,” states the WHO.

Comments are closed.