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Tenfold rise in child obesity in 4 decades: WHO

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 Rohit Shishodia
Clearly, obesity among kids is an epidemic in poorer communities that can not afford healthy food.

Amazingly, a tenfold increase has been reported in obesity among children from five to nineteen years of age in the last four decades.

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Imperial College, London, has revealed that there will be more obese children than underweight ones by the year 2022. The study looked at data from 1975 to 2016. Published in Lancet, the study reveals that rise of obesity among children has accelerated in Asian countries.

The study was conducted on 130 million children (boys and girls) whose body mass index (BMI) was checked. It examined how obesity has changed from 1975 to 2016.

It showed that the major reason behind the rise in obesity among children is the food market, policies and pricing. Lead author of the study, Professor Majid Ezzati, says that rising obesity among children at such a rapid pace reflects the impact of food marketing and policies across the globe, with healthy, nutritious foods too expensive for poor families and communities.

Dr Ezzati adds that the trend predicts a generation of children and adolescents growing up obese and at greater risk of diseases, like diabetes. He says that there is need to make healthy food available at schools and homes, especially in poor communities and families, as also regulations and taxes to protect children from unhealthy foods.

To tackle the problem posed by obesity in children, the WHO has also released guidelines calling on frontline healthcare workers to actively identify and manage children who are overweight or obese.

Dr Fiona Bull, programe coordinator for surveillance and population-based prevention of non-communicable diseases, WHO, advises that nations should aim to reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods such as cheap, ultra-processed, calorie dense and poor nutrient foods. “The nations should also address the issues such as sedentary lifestyle. Children should spend more time in physical activity through recreation and sport rather than watching television and smart phones,” adds Dr Bull.

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