Childhood obesity is now an epidemic in India. With 14.4 million obese children, India has the second-highest number of obese children in the world, next to China. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is 15%. In private schools catering to upper-income families, the incidence has shot up to 35-40%, indicating a worrying upward trend.
Causes of Childhood Obesity:
The fundamental cause of childhood obesity is an imbalance between calories consumed and energy spent. Indians are genetically predisposed to obesity. However, the rapid increase in childhood obesity is largely due to environmental influences. Economic prosperity leads to a change in diet from traditional to ‘modern’ foods, rich in fat and sugar. Urbanization leads to an increase in sedentary lifestyles and a decline in physical activity.
Health Implication of Childhood Obesity:
Childhood obesity has serious health implications. Obese children are at increased risk of hypertension, osteoarthritis, high cholesterol and triglycerides, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, respiratory problems, emotional disturbances, and some cancers. Two in three obese children will remain obese as adults and at risk for adult lifestyle diseases. India is projected to become the diabetes capital in the world.
Prevention of Childhood Obesity:
According to WHO, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Prevention of childhood obesity is vital, especially since we know that the treatment of obesity is extremely difficult. Proven and simple strategies to prevent obesity include:
Parents as Role Models for Children:
Awareness and education at the community level are important to tackle obesity. The SRCC – Children’s Hospital, managed by Narayana Health has now launched a special program for the promotion of healthy lifestyles and prevention and treatment of childhood obesity – NH iCAN: Improving Children’s Activity and Nutrition. The goal is to prevent Gen X from becoming Gen XXL!
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