Cute is a word most likely used to describe chubby kids, but being chubby may not be cute after all as these kids may actually be among those having childhood obesity without their parents realizing it. Unfortunately, “obese” may sometimes be mistaken as “healthy” as some parents may have the idea that a visibly fat child is a healthy child.
Childhood obesity is believed to be on the rise and this problem is certainly becoming a fat one.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of overweight children under age five in 2010 is 42 million with 35 million found in developing countries. Obese children may likely remain obese as adults and will likely develop health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age according to the WHO.
As the child grows, children are exposed to foods high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and micronutrients are widely that result to unhealthy eating habits, adding to it the increasing trend towards lesser physical activity with increased TV hours and playing of video and computer games, which confine to a seat.
But childhood obesity can be preventable, and prevention should start even when the child is still in the mother’s womb. The New England Journal of Medicine cites excessive maternal weight gain, smoking during pregnancy and shorter-than-recommended duration of breastfeeding as some factors associated with increased risk for obesity in infancy and early childhood.
During the infancy stage, less-than-12-hours sleep duration is also a factor. As the child grows, other factors come in. Foods high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and micronutrients are widely available and provide a temptation that is hard to resist among children. With these foods around, unhealthy eating habits tend to occur. Add to this is the increasing trend towards lesser physical activity with increased TV hours and with playing time confined to a seat with the entry of video and computer games as well as increased urbanization.
Ask a child about their favorite snack and fruits are rarely mentioned. Try asking a child today about street games like “buwan-buwan”, “siatong” or, “tubig-tubig” and chances are, nobody is playing those games nowadays. Instead of spotting kids running on the streets, you will find toddlers to adolescents making their avatars run for them in “Temple Run” or “DOTA”.
It’s not just the children’s behavior that is to blame but the parents too. Some parents are actually contributing to the problem of obesity in their own children as they spoil their child with food and lots of it. “The idea that a big baby is a healthy baby, and a crying baby is probably a hungry baby who should be fed, are things we really need to rethink,” Dr. Leann Birch, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center in Penn State said.
A family that “eats” together, “stays” healthy together. Parents are very important for prevention of obesity.
With many Filipinos working abroad, it is possible that there are also some parents who may make up for their physical presence by allowing a child to watch plenty of TV, or play video and computer games. Many parents become so busy at work that they often find less time with their kids, time which could have been spent for having family walks, biking, jogging and other physical activities.
The prevention of childhood obesity should be a multisectoral effort that should start within a family and should include schools, civil society and the private sector. Parents are very important for prevention to be successful. Early in life, mothers should breastfeed their children. They should promote healthy diets by making healthy foods and beverages available in their homes. The intake of fruits and vegetables should be encouraged. Healthy school snacks should also be served to children instead of packaged snacks. Having family meals together is also encouraged.
Parents should also promote a healthy lifestyle by acting as models to their children encouraging their children to engage in sports or perhaps do physical activities together. Television and computer time should be reduced.
Parents should promote a healthy lifestyle by acting as models to their children, and should also include other sectors like schools, civil society and the private sector.
Next to parents, the school plays an important role to reduce childhood obesity. Health education promoting healthy behaviors and creating a healthy school environment should be integrated. School canteens should offer healthy choices too. School gardens can be used as a tool to increase awareness about food origins and nutrition. Sports and fitness programs should be activated. Physical activity should be encouraged among teachers, parents, students and the entire community.
With these combined efforts, it is the hope that this childhood obesity epidemic will be put to a stop.